Lucio Cecchinello, boss of the LCR Honda team, is well-known for his innovative approach to raising sponsorship for the team. Through the years that the team has raced in MotoGP, LCR has showcased a number of different sponsors all featuring on the fairing for a few individual races, rather than for a full season. Cecchinello calls this approach the "Event Title Sponsor" format. So when news appeared earlier this week that Playboy was set to sponsor the LCR Honda team, the press were surprised that Cecchinello would be dropping this tried-and-tested approach.
But we had all been wrong-footed. Despite Cecchinello having met with senior Playboy officials in Italy last week, the Italian team owner had not secured Playboy as a title sponsor. Instead, Playboy will be sponsoring LCR in the same way the team's other sponsors have, on an event-to-event basis. The deal is with the publisher of the Italian edition of Playboy, and will see Randy de Puniet carry the iconic Playboy logo on the bike for the Spanish and Japanese Grand Prix, as well as the IRTA tests which kick off for the MotoGP class at Jerez tomorrow morning.
Although the sponsorship deal is only for the first few races - it was timed to help with the relaunch of the Italian magazine, though attempts to include the season opener at Qatar failed because of advertising restrictions in that country - Cecchinello is talking to other editions of Playboy looking for similar deals. If it all pans out as the team hopes, then the Playboy logo could appear at more races during the year.
The deal will also see the LCR Honda team and Randy de Puniet in a special MotoGP spread in the Italian edition of Playboy magazine. The magazine is being relaunched in Italy, and the MotoGP link up is part of the magazine's push to promote itself in the Italian market. The edition features a number of tasteful pictures of a semi-naked Randy de Puniet, joined by equally semi-naked Playgirls.
The LCR Honda press kit provided us with a number of photos, some of which are shown below. But the Italian website MotoBlog.it has a more complete selection over on their site.