Lotus & Sponsorship

Lotus and Sponsorship


This article touches a very important subject; past and present.

Lotus was one of the most significant participants and perhaps wore two of the most indelible sponsor logos ever seen in motor sport.

The text books tell us about the events but not much about the genius of Chapman’s conceptual thinking or how he made connections and established partnerships. We can only imagine how he envisaged the overall package and perhaps the very quality and distinctiveness of the branding would give a competitive and psychological advantage. [Try to comprehend the potential enormity of opportunity that Chapman might have grasped] It would be a good piece of research to examine the exact contract that he made with the sponsors]

The subject has some ethical considerations that will be debated frankly.

The subject has direct and immediate relevance to the proposed museum project.

Sponsorship has not been the exclusive preserve of motor sport and many other major events, exhibitions and institutions including tennis have benefited from their involvement.

Ethical or Philosophical Concerns about Sponsorship.

The arguments against sponsorship are:

  • That it promotes some products associated with health dangers
  • It promotes products which if not used / consumed sensibly can cause anti social behaviour
  • That the products pose greatest dangers to young impressionable minds
  • That some of the products associated with the greatest health dangers are extremely profitable
  • That those profits permit the greatest level of sponsorship and hence consumption.
  • That high profits can afford the most persuasive of marketing and psychological techniques to induce consumption
  • Some have concerns about multinationals their corporate policy, their treatment of the environment and suppliers particularly in the third world.
  • Sponsorship is a linked ratchet linking investment to results in a way that it can eliminate smaller competitors [on / off the track]
  • Potential malpractice relating to taxation

The author understands some of these concerns.

The counter argument in favour of sponsorship is that:

  • It provides choice
  • It is essentially education and informed choice
  • Its openness and free access without censorship or moralisation.
  • It has an interest to promote excellence and symbiotic relationships
  • In some instances it has helped produce consumer products.
  • It is international and available to all without restrictions of national boundaries.
  • Imagery and branding transcend language and again promotes internationalism.
  • Some would contend that any form of competition that then publishes results is an act marketing if not sponsorship.
  • It permits the smaller specialist get some recognition e.g. components not seen externally e.g. plugs.
  • Sponsorship can have totally social responsibly through educational and environmental support
  • The companies could spend money in other marketing devises, outlets and media or might seek to reduce price to increase consumption, which might of course have the adverse health benefits that its detractors seek.

Of course sponsorship has been a legal and moral minefield impacting on the viability of the sport and subject to considerable political debate and legislation.

The author considers on balance that sponsorship with a social responsible focus can have some wider community benefits. The argument for which is developed later in relation to the museum project.

Definition and Application of sponsorship

Sponsorship is to support an event, activity, person or organisation financially or through provision of products or services.

A sponsor is the individual or the group that provides the support, similar to a benefactor.

Sponsorship is cash or in kind fee paid in return for access to the exploitable commercial opportunity associated with the person or event.

The sponsor may wish to be identified or even become synonymous with a sport individual or event.

Sponsorship is not new and has existed where greater opportunities for exposure exist. TV and radio by definition of the mass audience witnessed early sponsorship.

Sponsorship is becoming an important part of life and has a role in education.

Perhaps the best sponsorship exists when there is a symbiotic relationship between the parties. To succeed it must meet and address the sponsors needs, aspirations, offer value for money and be cost effective.

A creative approach is required with regard to effective marketing, sales and promotional opportunities.

Sponsorship needs to remain relevant in achieving commercial objectives. These adapt change with society and competition and increasingly reflect concerns for social responsibility, sustainability and the environment.

Sponsorship has an interest in demographics and the audience numbers it can reach with cost effectiveness.

Examples and Use within the Motor Industry

  • 1977 Aston Martin DB7 –Alfred Dunhill
  • 1995 Subaru Impreza 555 -555 State Express
  • 1989 Labatt’s Ford Sierra RS500
  • 1973 Iso Rivolta Lele –Marlboro
  • 1977 Porsche 924 Martini – Martini Rossi Special Edition
  • 1984 Jagermeister BMW M635 Csi
  • 1981-1988 Camel Trophy Land Rover
  • 1984-1986 Metro 6R4 Rothmans
  • 1977-Lotus Esprit Europa, Elan –John Player Specials
  • 2000/02-Lotus Elise “Gold Leaf/John Player Specials”

Lotus, John Player and Imperial Tobacco

C.1828 William Wright set up a small tobacco factory in Nottingham, GB.
Around 1877 it was purchased by John Player. He then built the Castle Tobacco factory in Radford, Nottingham to expand production.

He also [typically Victorian] adopted a registered trademark to guarantee to the public that the product was genuine and of consistent quality.

Two of his sons inherited and later ran the business.
At the turn of the century and responding to American competition Players joined forces with Imperial Tobacco Group based at Bristol, GB.
Imperial tobacco between them held a distinctive identity and brand. This included; Gold Leaf, Woodbines, Players, Navy Cut, Number Six, John Player Special and Embassy.

Imperial tobacco commenced sponsorship in 1968 with Gold Leaf livery. [Lotus 49] Later they switched to JPS.and continued until c 1986.
It’s interesting to note the link / overlap that Imperial Tobacco also sponsored Graham Hills F1 team under their other brand name of Embassy. The company were also involved with JPS Norton Dunlop motorcycle road racing.

Aesthetics and Branding and Lotus Road and Race cars.

Lotus road and race cars that that displayed sponsor branding include:

  • Elan Gold Leaf
  • Europa Gold Leaf &JPS
  • Esprit JPS & Essex
  • Elise Various
  • Race cars – see Excel sheet for full details.

It’s rare that the aesthetic of the branding should be complementary to the design .In the Lotus case the majority of the road cars that bore the colours did so with an integrated distinction.

Two examples are worthy of extended analysis.

Lotus Type 74 Europa Special c 1971.

The Black and Gold livery of John Player Special adorned the Europa, Elan 2+2 and the Esprit. It was very effective on the Europa Special.

Although essentially the same as its predecessor there were some significant revisions. Aesthetically and externally the rear buttresses ere cut down to improve visibility and took a profile close to the rear deck. It’s subjective and debateable whether this improved overall balance and massing.

However the Europa special was available in the charismatic and recognisable livery of John Player Special.
This was very significant, subtle and persuasive for sponsors as owners were deliberately identifying and electing to promote the brand care of their ownership. In reality they provided an extremely rapid billboard.
The livery and detailing was stylish yet discreet and understated but perhaps more powerful and persuasive as a result. For many the complementary elements had a classicism of a refined package and profile.

The design scheme and presentation spoke of quality and deferred to understatement and tradition although there were strong but simple contrasts. The pin striping worked well with the shape and accentuated contours. The minimum of chrome to window frame, wiper blade, mirrors and bumpers really set of a reflected the stark simplicity.
The “Spider” wheels were well proportioned and the design sat well the wheel design coded within the overall framework concept.

The Europa was rather minimalist and the smallest detail like badging; indicators provided sharp points of functional contrast but aesthetically pleasing, harmonious and juxtaposed within a balanced mass and form.

The main measurements / proportions of the Europa Special:
Length: 157.5 “
Width: 64.5”
Height: 44”
Wheelbase: 92”

Lotus Type 49 FI Car 1967

The Type 49 will always been iconic for both its specification and appearance.
It was an evolved and thoroughly integrated package designed by Chapman and Philippe; renowned for the introduction of the Cosworth –Ford DFV [V8 engine]
The engine size and layout determined the overall shape of the chassis and reduced the cross section to a minimum. The chassis was constructed in aluminium with a GRP nose cone.
The Gold Leaf sponsor colours replaced the national colour codes of British “racing green”. These had been simple elegant appropriate but the sponsor colours and detailing were handled extremely tastefully and due to their Union Jack content were just as readily identified – perhaps more so.
Externally the body was presented in the Gold Leaf colours f red, white and gold in predominant two tone combination.
The colour scheme was bold bright and extremely distinctive. The blend was strong yet integrated and not all gaudy. The gold was kept to minimum but worked to highlight the nose cone and front wings. The sponsor band name and Team Lotus were attractively counterpoised and suggested partnership. The colour scheme worked well on the car and actually emphasised and accentuated the long low construction. [Elongated oblong in plan section; except for the sharpened nose cone detail.]

Even the black on white race numbers colour coded and provided a harmonious totality along with the 15” wheels and Firestone brand name picked out in fine white detail on their walls.

The detailing only saw a minimum of other sponsor logos in a way that did not detract from the overall form and function.

The engine, exhaust and suspension details in chrome plate or polished surfaces were understated but provided functional sparkle necessary to lift the design and give it a counterpoise. All in all it was totally correct.

The Type 49 looked functional and purposeful from all angles. It was instantly recognisable which was marketing asset and easy articulation.

The author feels that the correctness and aesthetically pleasing composition reached deep into the subconscious and this along with the competition success ensured that the Type 49 was emblazoned in magazines, periodicals and posters, book jackets and covers all over the world. It sold Lotus and Gold Leaf and this is what sponsors demanded. In the case of the Type 49 it possibly exceeded expectations.
The product was projected as successful, competitive, technologically advanced, nationalistic but also possessing degrees of understatement and the essence of good taste.

The extend of the impact and indelible imagery is that fifty years on the Gold leaf and John player logos /livery are considered some of the most effective and memorable ever created. This is a considerable achievement and a very significant return on investment.

Other Major Sponsors and Specialists Involved with Lotus.

The A&R holds a detailed database of nearly all the names of the companies that sponsored Lotus in period. Some of the larger companies are:

Lucky Strike
De Longhi

In addition and complementary are the details of all the specialists firms that contributed parts etc.
The significance of these extends into social and engineering/ manufacturing history and geographical locational patterns. It’s quite easy to overlook now that West London once had a specialist-engineering infrastructure to rival the Midlands.
Many of these companies aspired to excellence in their own right.
They also tell a story of how Chapman innovated to be competitive whilst keeping costs and overheads down. There are lessons for today.

The multitude of specialist firms offers extensive exhibition opportunities with educational lessons relating to survival and adaptation.
Some of the companies still exist.

The A&R has recorded 324 companies that either directly sponsored Lotus or were specialist-engineering suppliers. Many of who are multi nationals. The list also includes the smaller specialists many of whom were based in London. These companies have an important role and wealth of social history. From the time London was the epicentre of post war motor sport.
The A&R also holds a database of 3000+ companies internationally that have a current involvement and interest in motor sport.

Exploitation and Wider Promotional Opportunities.

Sponsorship can increase its exposure with related activities. The can include:

  • Television and radio
  • Video, DVD, film and Internet related.
  • Print and Press media and publications
  • Advertising, including support advertising
  • Race Day promotion
  • VIP entertainment and corporate hospitality
  • Merchandising
  • Point of Sale
  • Competitions
  • Special events
  • Capitalise on celebrities etc
  • Photography
  • Sponsored publications
  • Audience participation
  • Exhibitions and Road shows, Auto shows
  • Supporters club etc
  • Community involvement
  • Specialist PR

High visual impact opportunities.

  • Car design and associated graphics and logo etc
  • Transporters
  • Drivers uniform / overalls
  • Team “ “
  • Stationary. Letter heads. Communication media.


Typical examples

  • Wrist watches
  • Promotional material and adverts
  • Badges
  • Calendars and cards
  • TV programmes and documentaries
  • Advertisements, posters and magazine covers
  • Computer games
  • Press release
  • Information cards
  • Clothing and race wear
  • Utensils
  • Overalls
  • Tools
  • Stickers
  • Children’s toys and scale models
  • Packaging
  • Specification sheets
  • Specialist holidays
  • Books, DVD etc.
  • Creative media.

Applicability and Relevance to the proposed CCM&EC.

The author contends that sponsorship can play a significant role in the establishment of a museum devoted to motor sport.
This is both a facilitating and symbiotic between partners. Individual companies have their own history and this is interlinked with their involvement with Lotus.
There are opportunities for these to be displayed interpreted both in historic and ongoing evolutionary context. Technology was an integrated component of Chapman’s conceptual thinking and this can be brought to life at the museum.
Their products are often successful in their own right and have evolutionary courses worthy of study.
Colin Chapman engaged with sponsors to raise cash and remain competitive this is a legitimate practice and perhaps more so in the absence of state sponsorship/ subsidy. Equally applicable then as now sponsorship assisted sales and generated employment and hence through taxation contributed to the wider economy and social welfare. In the same vein the proposed museum believes that it too can and should co-develop its activities in conjunction with those companies that have historical connection some continuing to the present day and those who’s interest are symbiotic

Times and values change. Many multi national companies these days believe they have wider social responsibilities and obligations including sustainability. There can be no greater contribution than to education culture, technology, business development and international exchange than the museum project provides.
The museum project raises the potential for tourism and cultural exchange.
The CCM&EC proposal places it self to advance its host as capital of culture. Great emphasising being placed on the design, creativity and problem solving forward thinking methodologies. These are linked holistically to interrelated international cultural and historical developments. Under such a regime the model will always progress self-fuelling it self with an inner driven momentum to deliver richer more multi layered cultivated objectives. The proposed museum helps drive an “Experience “based economy.

The Chapman philosophy of innovation, improvisation and analysis are perhaps more necessary today than before. Also relevant is the achievement, example, demonstration and contribution to green thinking of Chapman which if committed to performance non the less was the theoretical basis of energy and resource saving.

Sponsors in the museum setting have opportunities to explain their own ongoing R&D role and how they support the environment. Furthermore they can underpin educational, training, work experience and research programmes.

The museum is subtitled the “Exploratory –Laboratory” a living working dynamic organism. Its primary educational programme foundation in the Experience Economy. This is far reaching, high expectation, and value driven entertainment motivated learning opportunity. The museum provides a multi-layered opportunity to Learn, Question, Experiment, Participate, Watch, and Appreciate and be inspired.

The vertical /horizontal integration matrix permitting dual role blurring boundaries that simultaneously servers customers whilst providing high quality training and integrated work experience.

The CCM&EC has not been conceived as a fossilised regressive nostalgia trip but extremely forward looking with a master/ business plan that actively seeks positive sponsorship participation that is invited as an equal, equitable and honourable partner/ stake holder with shared visions and outcome driven. The concept is believed to have throughput volume, demographics especially of the young intelligent and science orientated; exposure to the media and educational programmes that will offer sponsors justification for investment.

Potential sponsors are invited to contact us. We are able to conduct presentations outlining the Business Plan and visualisation of the operational functioning museum.

Future Articles

Throughout 2011 the Archive and Resource will be developing a series of articles specifically relating to sponsors their products and how these contributed to Lotus success. We would be pleased to hear from those that feel that they have a connection and our subscribers who might wish express a preference or priority to these.

Sponsorship and the World of Motor Racing
Hazelton Publishing 1992
ISBN 0905138953

Finding Company Sponsors
Chris Wells
Directory of Social Change 2000

Looking after your donors
Karen Gilchrest
Directory of Social Change 2000



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