SBD/Issue 132/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Virgin Media Joins F1, Signs Sponsorship Deal With Brawn GP

Branson And Virgin Group Reach Multi-Million
Dollar Deal To Sponsor F1 Team Brawn GP
Virgin Group has reached a deal to sponsor F1 team Brawn GP, marking the company's "first time as a significant team sponsor" in the sport, according to Edward Gorman of the LONDON TIMES. The multi-million dollar deal, set to be announced officially this weekend in Melbourne ahead of Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, marks Brawn's "first big sponsor signing" after Honda dropped its affiliation with the team in December. A Brawn source indicated that the team's cars will "carry extensive Virgin branding and may even do so" during Sunday's race, though Virgin Media is "not thought to have acquired the team's title sponsorship rights." F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone Thursday confirmed that a deal had been reached and said that the "size of Virgin's financial commitment has still to be worked out in detail." Ecclestone added that he "had been working to ensure a deal was done in recent weeks and that he had been prepared to make it work himself if the team had decided against going ahead." Gorman notes Virgin Media Chair Richard Branson earlier this year reportedly was in negotiations to possibly buy Brawn. Branson's only other involvement with F1 was Virgin's "minor sponsorship deal with the Jordan team" in '02 (LONDON TIMES, 3/27). Ecclestone: "I am delighted they have just got going on it and have a deal in place. It's good for the team, good for formula one, I'm very happy with it" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 3/27).

START YOUR ENGINES: In London, Russell Hotten writes the Virgin-Brawn deal "shows that other sponsors are willing to step in, but the prices being paid for sponsorship are thought to be" down as much as 60% from last season. Meanwhile, the F1 season kicks off Sunday in "typically supercharged fashion, but even this pinnacle of motor racing ... faces a financial crisis." There will be "less glitz and glamour this season," and for the "first time in years, the talk is of contraction, not expansion" (LONDON TIMES, 3/27).

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