Meet Stuart Robinson: A McLaren Off-Track Hero
The McLaren brand is iconic — and protecting it is an essential role. As Senior Brand Specialist, Stuart Robinson is the champion and guardian of the McLaren brand, whether he’s driving a big campaign, managing partnership relationships, or promoting brand visibility trackside.
We sat down with Stuart to hear about his work, and the key part he plays in putting McLaren’s brand front and centre.
Q: Stuart, as our McLaren off-track hero, can you tell us about your role and your responsibilities?
At McLaren, I’m part of the marketing function — I lead on the partner relationships with the brand and creative studio, acting as the interface and guardian between the two. Any time we do a big campaign, update the car livery, anything with a McLaren logo or splash of papaya, I’m there to protect the brand guidelines and look for opportunities to drive visibility, looking at all aspects from the car to the overalls to and the team kit.
Q: How long have you been working at McLaren — and how did you get here?
I’ve been working at McLaren for about three years now, although I’ve been in and around the sport for about 10 years.
I started agency-side, working with other brands to activate partnerships. Then I moved brand-side, working at a sponsor partner to act as the global lead for engagement and events. Now, I’m in-house at McLaren — I’ve ‘completed the triangle,’ so to speak.
Q: What’s the most challenging part of your role?
We’re quite a disparate team; there’s always someone travelling, with people working from different locations. So it’s tough when people are in different time zones. Collaborating effectively can be quite hard; you’ve got to get the right processes in place.
Q: And what’s the most rewarding part?
When we win, we all win together. Everyone in McLaren has a part to play when delivering success on the track, whether it's in the creative studio delivering the best livery, the partnerships team delivering great partner activities, in the technical team, or anywhere else.
We really feel that everyone has a part to play, it’s not just about the race team at the track.
Q: What’s your favourite thing about being a part of McLaren?
For me, it's being part of the history and legacy of the team. It's such an honour to say that you've been part of the journey, especially with McLaren having achieved multiple podiums over the last couple of years.
To say that you've made a mark, you've been part of this journey — it's really quite amazing.
And those victories really lift you up. Achieving another podium at Imola this year was a huge uplift for the team. We got the podium last year, and to achieve that again in 2022 is the boost the team needed. We had a slow start to the season. So achieving third place was a real boost for everyone involved.
Q: Success isn’t just about driver performance on race weekend. How do you play your part in driving success for the wider team?
Having the right processes is vital. We work really closely with the whole racing organisation — everyone from our Surface and Brand team, who deliver the amazing liveries that you see on track, through to the aerodynamics team.
So, we need to make sure that we have a rigorous process in place to ensure nothing is missed. There are plenty of moving parts, so having clear processes in place allows me to keep track of all of the requests coming through the business or even through the different functions of marketing.
I have to make sure that I have full visibility of everything that has been briefed or going into the studio, and then control the outputs to deliver the best support.
Q: Can you tell us about your role during race season — presumably the pressure is on?
We typically work five to six races ahead. Within the partner ecosystem, we have a couple of partners who have different legislation in certain markets. So we need to make sure that the brands that we run on the car adhere to the local market register legislations.
There's always a review of all the branding applications over the race weekend, whether we're running any additional brands, and so on. That starts a couple of weeks out, working closely with the racing organisation.
As we gear up for the individual races themselves, we focus on the deliverables for any key marketing calendar initiatives, or if there are any key campaigns that partners are running. We then start looking through all of the content, including the assets being generated either externally with the partners or internally with our creative studio.
We usually get that content seven to ten days ahead, and that could be social media posts, campaigns that they're running (at circuit or off circuit), and so on. We review them against our brand guidelines, to ensure it gives McLaren and the partner the best visibility and presents us in the best light.
As race weekend passes, we then start to take the umbrella view, looking further into the future to make sure that we're always on the front foot in terms of delivering optimal branding for partners.
We continually review the insights that we get from the races and ensure that all partner branding is optimised to deliver maximum impact and return.
Q: And what about Silverstone in particular — is it a special atmosphere?
Yes, definitely. Obviously, the lead-up to race weekend can be intense, but for Silverstone in particular, the fans make it. They bring such an electric atmosphere — it’s the home race for the team in the UK, the home race for Lando, and there's always a huge amount of support behind the UK drivers.
So the fans really make the weekend, especially when they camp out for days. Come rain or shine, they bring the energy, they bring the passion, and they bring excitement. It’s fantastic.
Q: It sounds like you’re managing a lot of moving parts: what tools and processes do you rely on to drive success?
As I mentioned, collaboration can be tricky with so many moving parts. To drive success in my team, we've recently integrated Smartsheet within the creative studio. Previously, the studio had a very disparate briefing process. Bringing Smartsheet on board to streamline the process has enabled the creative team to really focus on their deliverables, rather than having to do a lot of the account handling as well.
Smartsheet allows us to capture all the briefing, tracking and approvals in a single location.
Crucially, it gives complete visibility across the whole function of what's been generated and the output of the studio. Previously, we had no tangible way of quantifying the list or number of assets that we've actually been generating.
Bringing Smartsheet within the studio has streamlined operations to allow the team to work at their best, creating visibility of the work that we do and our output.
Q: Final question. As an off-track hero, can you describe an off-track activity that people might be surprised to learn drives on-track success?
People might be surprised to learn how closely the creative studio works with the aerodynamics team. Every gram of weight is measured on the car, to ensure we’re running optimally when we hit the track. So for the creative studio, we work hand in hand with the aerodynamics team on the weight of the vinyl we apply to the cars for logos.
We don't want to be carrying additional weight into the race weekend. We want to make sure that the car looks great — but the priority is to make sure that it performs. So for every part of the car, we do a weight-saving analysis to make sure that we’re hitting the track with the greatest possible chance for success.