Clemson’s Erwin Center students helping drive McLaren brand expansion

CLEMSON — United Kingdom-based McLaren Automotive is tapping Clemson University students this semester to help the high-performance sports car manufacturer reach a new set of consumers.

The Erwin Center for Brand Communications students will be tasked with developing an advertising and marketing campaign to help McLaren reach “lifestyle” sports car enthusiasts. As part of the College of Business Creative Inquiry project, students will get an up-close feel for their branding endeavor Sept. 6, when McLaren brings 720 and 570 sports cars to campus.

“This capstone course will give our students real and practical branding and advertising experience with an iconic automotive brand,” said Katie Hildebrand, executive director of The Erwin Center for Brand Communications. “As part of the students’ briefing on the project, they will be given rides in the sports cars.”

The Creative Inquiry project was arranged through Clemson alumnus Andy Thomas, North American vice president of marketing and communications for McLaren Automotive. Thomas received a degree in mechanical engineering from Clemson in 1990.

Hildebrand said McLaren is interested in reaching lifestyle buyers. Unlike “petrolheads,” who are sports car track enthusiasts, lifestyle buyers have the financial wherewithal and interest in street driving the sports cars, which are capable of reaching speeds exceeding 200 mph.

“The McLaren project tasks students with developing economical digital campaigns aimed at reaching the lifestyle buyers, but also the petrolheads,” Hildebrand said. “In December, The Erwin Center for Brand Communications students will present their plans to McLaren’s Brand Marketing team.”

The 720 and 570 sports cars will be displayed publicly from 3 to 7 p.m. Sept. 6 at the Watt Family Innovation Center.

For more information, contact Katie Hildebrand at 419-651-2751, or


The Erwin Center for Brand Communications
The Erwin Center for Brand Communications at Clemson University was founded in 2012 as a strategic partnership with the department of communication studies through a donation by marketing entrepreneurs Joe and Gretchen Erwin. Utilizing a highly collaborative teaching model — and in partnership with leading national agencies and brands — the program now is housed in the College of Business and prepares students for careers in the evolving and increasingly interactive disciplines of marketing, advertising and communication.

Creative Inquiry
Creative Inquiry is a unique program that gives Clemson University undergraduate students the opportunity to work on research projects that span disciplines and multiple semesters. Students work in teams with faculty mentors, take ownership of their projects and take the risks necessary to solve problems and get answers. Creative Inquiry participants develop critical thinking skills, learn to solve problems and hone their communication and presentation skills. For more information, go to