Diageo signs F1 champ to promote responsible drinking

Diageo has appointed double Formula One world champion Mika Hakkinen as responsible drinking ambassador for its Johnnie Walker Formula One sponsorship programme. Johnnie Walker is an official partner for Team McLaren Mercedes, and spends more than £2m a year on promoting responsible drinking.

Hakkinen will tour the world promoting sensible drinking and safe driving by focusing on issues of responsibility and choice.

Ben Anderson, global brand director for Johnnie Walker, says: “The association with Johnnie Walker and Team McLaren Mercedes has seen us successfully deliver the responsible drinking and safe driving message to millions of people around the world. Our belief is that delivering these messages through Formula One and its role models will raise responsible drinking awareness.”

Diageo signed the deal with Team McLaren Mercedes two years ago (MW December 16, 2004). At the time, questions were raised about connecting an alcohol brand with motor racing but since then, the global drinks giant has worked hard to address such fears.

It has used Formula One drivers – and NASCAR drivers in the US, where it sponsors the NASCAR racing programme – to get the safe drinking message across.

Activities have included designated driver programmes, where designated drivers were entered into a draw to win a safe driving course with Team McLaren Mercedes’ test driver (and now Formula One driver) Pedro de la Rosa, and free taxi rides home from bars for drinkers in cities such as Shanghai. In the US, some drinkers were driven home by NASCAR drivers.

Diageo is also sponsoring a two year pan-European research programme with the European Transport Safety Council to identify the best ways to get the responsible drinking and safe driving messages across to young and novice drivers and also repeat drunk drivers.

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