The new multi-year agreement is in addition to the Diageo-owned brand’s sponsorship of the McLaren Mercedes team, a tie-up which was established in 2005 and remains unaffected by the wider deal.
Speaking at an event to announce the partnership today (18 September), Diageo Africa and Asia president Nick Blazquez said the tie-up would allow the brand to extend its reach to global race fans.
Formula 1 has a global television audience of more than 450 million people and a track attendance of 1.5 million people, Diageo says.
Diageo added that the expanded global platform will also bring new audiences to the brand’s “Join the Pact” responsible drinking initiative it launched last year. In that time, Diageo says more than 1 million people have signed the campaign’s pledge to never drink and drive.
Diageo plans to increase its investment in the programme this year by activating it in new territories, with the ambition of gaining a further five million pledges over the next four years.
The new arrangement also shines a spotlight on the historic connection between the Walker family and motorsport. In the 1950s the late Rob Walker established his own racing team that in 1958 became the first private team to win a FIA Formula One World Championship qualifying Grand Prix in Argentina, led by driver Sir Stirling Moss.
Johnnie Walker has been looking to partnerships to play up the aspirational elements of the brand. In July it partnered with men’s fashion retailer Mr Porter to create a short film starring Jude Law. It also counts British model David Gandy as one of its brand ambassadors.
Diageo reported a 0.8 per cent increase in operating margin and a 0.4 per cent lift in net sales in the 12 months to 30 June, crediting its move to shave £72m from its marketing budget for improving profitability.