Johnny Walker extends F1 sponsorship of McLaren

LONDON - Diageo has renewed its Johnnie Walker sponsorship deal with Formula 1 team McLaren Mercedes, ensuring that the Striding Man icon will continue to appear at Grand Prix events until the end of the 2012 season.

The drinks group said it would invest more money in the sponsorship, which in 2005 was worth about £15m annually, giving it an increased level of brand exposure.

Ben Anderson, Johnnie Walker's marketing director, said: "Diageo and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes have agreed the terms of an extended sponsorship of the team by Johnnie Walker. The final agreement is expected to be concluded in the next few days.

"Over its first two years, the partnership has been a powerful platform to drive brand equity and deliver Diageo's responsible drinking messages, and the extended sponsorship clearly demonstrates Diageo's resulting confidence in the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team as Partners for the future."

Since the 2005 deal the "Striding Man" and Johnnie Walker signature have appeared on McLaren F1 cars' air intakes, behind the drivers' heads, as well as on the drivers' overalls, racing team members' uniforms and McLaren race transporters.

In addition to the annual sponsorship and marketing investment of between £10m and £15m, Diageo said at the time it would spend £2m every year on responsible drinking programmes in Grand Prix markets.

Ron Dennis, McLaren's team principal, said: "It is always tremendously fulfilling when a partner of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes extends its involvement with the team. Through their responsible drinking campaign, Johnnie Walker has activated a wide range of high-profile and innovative programmes involving the team since our partnership began in 2005, and we are looking forward to contributing further to the growth of the Johnnie Walker brand."

Despite having been stripped of all its 2007 points by motorsports governing body the FIA after the Ferrari spying controversy, McLaren is facing a thrilling end to the F1 season. Its two drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, both have a shot at the World Championship in Brazil in two weeks' time.