Qantas officially launched its sponsorship of the 2000 Melbourne Grand Prix this morning at a chaotic London Heathrow airside press conference.
Surrounded by many of the glitterati of the Formula One (F1) world and a scrum of press, Qantas group general manager John Borghetti also unveiled one of the airline's Boeing 747-400s specially painted with a 22m-long F1 car on both sides.
"F1 is our single biggest sporting sponsorship and with an audience reach of 350 million, it achieves our twin objectives of building brand awareness and promoting Australia - Melbourne in particular," he says.
"It is not every day that we paint an aircraft and we are expecting big things of this new design."
Borghetti was speaking just 24hr after he and his team had held a similar, if warmer, conference in Melbourne, using the same aircraft.
Australian grand prix association chairman Ron Walker adds: "This aircraft will fly the European routes from Australia as well as those to Los Angeles and New York. It is a living advertisement for F1."
The Qantas 747, named "City of Melbourne", is the third of the airline's 140-strong fleet to be painted in a distinctive theme.
First to feature a special design was "Wunala Dreaming", launched in 1994, featuring the mainly red colours of the Australian outback. In late 1995, "Nalanji Dreaming" was also unveiled with an Aboriginal-inspired design.
More than 800 litres of paint were used to create the latest livery, which took almost 4,000 man-hours to complete at Aviation Exterior's plant at Portland, Oregon.
Qantas' deputy chief executive, Geoff Dixon, says that the bold F1 design emphasises the airline's support of the 2000 Australian grand prix as a major international event.
"Qantas flies tens of thousands of visitors to the Victorian capital in the lead-up to the big race at the Albert Park race circuit, which provides significant benefits for tourism," he adds. "We have worked closely with the grand prix on this project to focus attention on the event in the lead-up to its 12 March staging."