Johnnie Walker success soothes F1 sponsor fears

Johnnie Walker logoScottish whisky producer and McLaren-Mercedes partner Johnnie Walker has announced record operating profits for 2007, bringing welcome news to both parties admidst growing fears about the impact of the global ‘credit-crunch’ on Formula One.

The company, which has sponsored McLaren since 2005, burst through the £1 billion sales mark last year and enjoyed a 9 per cent rise in operating profits to £2.3bn, exceeding the expectations of parent company Diageo who predicted a growth of between 7 and 9 percent.

The announcement follows the news that Hotel giant Hilton, which also sponsors McLaren, is forecasted to double its revenue this year as a result of its partnership with the Woking squad.

“It’s a momentous achievement,” said Diageo chief executive Paul Walsh, who was delighted with the success of Scotland’s leading whisky producer. “We know it is the first premium drinks brand to reach this target. It has been helped by growth in emerging markets like South Africa and Asia. Johnnie Walker’s Formula One sponsorship has also helped.”

This will be an encouraging message for Formula One teams who fear that sponsors could be turned away from the sport as a result of the struggling economy.

Formula One has yet to be seriously hit by the ‘credit crunch’, but Bernie Ecclestone has acknowledged that the multi-billion dollar sport is by no means immune: “It seems that everyone is affected, but we will have to wait and see,” the 77-year-old Formula 1 chief executive said in interview with Spain’s El Mundo newspaper.

“At the moment we are not noticing it, but we are not immune to anything. We will have to be prepared,” the Briton added.

Johnnie Walker’s long-term relationship with McLaren, which includes promotional work through responsible drinking campaigns, began in 2005 and was extended two years later to run to 2012.

McLaren Team Principal Ron Dennis said last year: “It is always tremendously fulfilling when a partner extends its involvement with the team.”

“Through its 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.”