Digital ads come to formula one

Image Credit: Formula One

Brands have been using dynamic advertising in sports stadiums for a number of years. Now this new technology is making its way into more unusual places such as Formula 1 cars, driver helmets and even golf bags.

In Formula One, McLaren has been leading the way in integrating digital ads into the world of motor racing. It started trialing the technolgy on its cars last year and this is the first full season of using them.

The digital panels allow the team to regularly change the branding for a major sponsor on the car while it races around the track. Google is currently using McLaren’s digital ads which allows it to rotate its other brands including Chrome and Android.

Louise McEwen, Executive Director of Brand & Marketing at McLaren Racing, spoke to Campaign Middle East about its advertising innovations.

“A lot of thought and consideration goes into where we place the panels. Consideration on viewing on the car, as it is important it is picked up by the onboard camera, and matching it up with where a partner’s ads are on the car.”

While the technology lends itself well to brands, McLaren is exploring the option of using the panels as an interactive opportunity to engage with fans. For example, real-time messages from fans could appear on the side of the cars.

The next step for McLaren is to add digital ads onto the driver’s helmet, below the chin, working with its long-term technology partner Seamless Digital.

“Dynamic advertising is being integrated across all areas of sport, allowing sponsors to rotate their messaging”

“Being able to rotate different brands on our cars is a game-changer in this space and we are looking forward to seeing the impact this has on the wider industry,” McLaren Racing’s McEwen added.

McLaren undertook rigorous testing on the digital panels on its racing cars which have to withstand extreme heat, wet and high speeds.

Mark Turner, Founder and CEO at Seamless Digital, said: “By ensuring the technology works on a Formula One car we have already cracked the toughest place to innovate and are set to disrupt advertising across F1, motorsport, golf, US sports and ultimately, wider more mainstream use.”

McLaren says the possibilities for digital ads are endless and it wants to upscale the touchpoints.


The pioneering collaboration between McLaren Racing and Seamless Digital is likely to see others follow. The ability to dynamically change branding on Formula 1 cars across a race weekend is an exciting proposition.

First unveiled at the United States Grand Prix, it gave a glimpse into the future of motorsport marketing, allowing the team to connect with its fans and partners in new ways. As part of the deal, McLaren Racing also has options to explore the technology for its wider racing portfolio.

“We have found the perfect partner in McLaren who share our ambition for innovation and breaking convention as pioneers in the fields of technology,” adds Seamless Digital’s Turner.

We believe this is just the beginning of flexible on-car branding and motor racing assets.”