How Coca-Cola, McLaren Racing, and Amazon created a one-of-a-kind campaign

June 22, 2021 | By: Heather Eng, Sr. Editorial Lead

The idea of creative geniuses toiling away in solitude is a familiar trope, even if it’s not quite accurate. When people from different backgrounds and perspectives get together, bounce ideas off each other, and figure out how to meld their visions, the end result can be magical.

“It's rare that great ideas are produced by one talented individual holed away in an office or a studio,” says Zach Johnson, Director of Global Accounts and International Sales, Amazon Ads. “Some of the most powerful inventions and works of art were the result of collaboration. The same is true in the world of marketing. When brands pool their resources and creativity, they can build powerful campaigns that surprise and delight the customers they share.”

One such campaign is “Driven to Deliver,” a three-way collaboration between Coca-Cola, McLaren Racing, and Amazon. Just days before competing in the Formula 1 USA Grand Prix 2019, drivers Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz surprised Amazon customers in Austin by delivering their packages with a six-pack of Coke Zero Sugar. The campaign was a hit with fans around the world.

At the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Johnson hosted a panel with The Coca-Cola Company and McLaren Racing to discuss the elements that made the campaign successful. Here’s a look at how brands can produce powerful campaigns when they put their heads together and their customers first.

Aligning on values and goals

There are three key elements that shape successful brand collaborations, according to Brad Ross, Vice President, Global Sports and Entertainment Marketing and Partnerships, The Coca-Cola Company.

“First, there has to be an alignment in values. That's table stakes and the starting point,” he says. “Then, it’s about understanding the superpowers of each of the brands—and the more different they are, often the more complimentary they can be. The third element is aligning on objectives.”

And then there’s “this X factor that doesn't always happen, but when it does, it's magic,” Ross adds. “That's the part that brings it all together.”

Claire Cronin, Executive Director, Marketing, McLaren Racing, approaches brand collaborations in a similar manner.

“We all ask ourselves, ‘Is this partner purpose-led like us? Do they share our values? And do they share our audience and the way in which we want to engage with them?’” she says. “When this opportunity came together, it was a meeting of minds and a true marriage between the three brands because Coca-Cola, Amazon, and McLaren think about their customers in a similar way.”

Ideating a unique experience

When it was time to develop the activation, Coca-Cola, McLaren Racing, and Amazon agreed that they wanted to create a one-of-a-kind experience that would thrill customers.

“The experience economy is so important right now,” says Ross. “We were looking at our audience and understanding what each [collaborator] brings to the table. And we were thinking about what experiences would be innovative and exciting—experiences that money can't buy that we could start pulling together.”

Together, the three brands arrived at the concept of McLaren’s Formula 1 drivers pulling up in full racing gear—to deliver a package to unsuspecting Amazon customers.

“What could be more memorable, and drive more social currency that you’d want to share with your friends and your family, than receiving an Amazon delivery, which was hand-delivered by a Formula 1 race car driver, with free Coca-Cola?” says Cronin.

Lando Norris peeking out the side of a McLaren 600LT while filming the campaign (photo from 2019).

Making the human connection

The campaign video had all the right notes when it came to attention-getting novelty. But the playful banter between both drivers really made it a success.

“The biggest reward is the chemistry between the two drivers,” says Matt Tarallo, Global Vice President of Amazon, The Coca-Cola Company. “You were able to see the true characters of both drivers having that connection. It's extremely organic; fans are not getting a forced, scripted commercial. It really resonated.”

Fans are used to seeing the drivers when they’re laser-focused on their races—so they relished the chance to see the two McLaren Racing drivers in a more relaxed setting.

“Customers loved the behind-the-scenes footage of how it came to be,” says Tarallo, citing high click-through rates and video completions. “They felt like they were part of the story.”

Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris on set (photo from 2019).

Lando Norris continues to give fans the opportunity to get to know him when he’s not behind the wheel.

“The best way for me to interact with them is on Twitch,” he says. “It allows fans to see me for who I am. They’re used to seeing just what the F1 cameras show—me driving a car, me in the paddock every now and then. But they appreciate seeing me just in my casual clothes, back at home chatting, and giving a different perspective on it all. It's a lot of fun. I enjoy it. And it gives the fans a much better experience of what a Formula 1 driver does.”

Lando Norris about to surprise a customer with an Amazon delivery (photo from 2019).

Scaling to the UAE

One of Coca-Cola’s objectives with the program was to ensure that it could scale beyond a one-off activation and potentially go global. After releasing the video from the USA, the brands started iterating. They created a similar experience in Abu Dhabi. And Coca-Cola built out programs on their website where fans could receive McLaren Racing gear.

“Whether it was signed merchandise, helmets, suits, car parts—that type of global engagement and awareness was unheard of,” says Tarallo.

The experiential marketing campaign was an all-around success—for all three brands and the fans around the world who participated in the experience and got see drivers’ personalities off the race track.

“When we look at creating those kinds of experiences, the great thing about working with Amazon and Coca-Cola is that they really think through the end-to-end customer journeys and how they surprise and delight and sprinkle a little joy all the way through,” says Cronin. “That's where this collaboration came together and created such an amazing experience for the people who were on the receiving end of it.”