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Volume 6 No. 212

Marketing and Sponsorship

Long-time F1 sponsor Vodafone "will pull out of the sport at the end of the season after a review of its marketing strategy," according to Thomas & Blitz of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Sources said that Vodafone has paid as much as $75M every year for a sponsorship package centered "on the McLaren racing team and its current and former British drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton." Vodafone "has already withdrawn from other global partnerships, instead preferring to use its funds on domestic events that carry greater impact with local customers." Other long-running sponsorships, such as the England cricket team and Champions League football, "have also ended in the past few years." A Vodafone spokesperson said that "the group would create a Vodafone-owned marketing platform that would sponsor local events more directly rather than partner with other brands and events" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 3/14). The PA’s Ian Parkes reported McLaren has "confirmed they will announce what will be only the fifth title sponsor in their history on December 2, but will not disclose beforehand out of respect to Vodafone.” Mexican driver Sergio Perez has joined McLaren and “has a long-term relationship” with Telmex. Telmex is “currently still a sponsor at Sauber,” but is “widely thought of being the likely replacement of Vodafone” (PA, 3/14). Also in London, Paul Weaver reported the news that Vodafone "is also quitting at the end of 2013 is another serious blow, even though its departure has been the source of much speculation over the past year." The loss of Vodafone means McLaren "cannot afford to slip further behind as they try to lure another major sponsor to the team, as any deal is likely to be performance-related" (GUARDIAN, 3/14).

BAD PRESS: In London, Nic Fildes reported Vodafone has been “reconsidering its involvement” with F1 since “bitter acrimony broke out in April over the Bahrain Grand Prix, which went ahead despite a violent uprising in the country in which thousands of anti-government protesters confronted police.” Several corporate sponsors, including Vodafone, “pulled their hospitality plans but could do little to press for the removal of their branding from the cars because of the structure of sponsorship deals.” Vodafone was “particularly sensitive to events during the Arab Spring after it was forced by armed forces to shut down its network in Egypt in January 2011 and send out a text message on behalf of the Mubarak government to ‘confront the traitors and criminals.’” The company became a “lightning rod for criticism by activist groups both within Egypt and in the UK and the prospect of its brand appearing on racing cars during the Bahrain uprising threatened to backfire on the company a year later” (LONDON TIMES, 3/14).

Ticket marketplace StubHub "revealed further details" of its plan to integrate with the eBay ticket category in the UK, according to the IB TIMES. Beginning in May, some of the eBay ticket categories in the U.K. will be officially retired and sellers "will instead be able to list tickets in StubHub's core categories of concerts, comedy, theatre and sport." Both buyers and sellers will be redirected to StubHub and "invited to create a new account." The move is designed to "help grow the ticket category by offering an enhanced service for both buyers and sellers" which includes view from section venue maps, last minute services for ticket purchase and collection and a suite of mobile applications. Although the move is currently limited to the U.K., if successful, it "forms a template for potential rollout across territories as StubHub continues its ambitious expansion programme" (IB TIMES, 3/14).

BBVA bank will remain the title sponsor of La Liga and La Liga B in a deal that could be worth up to €75M ($97M), according to Jose Felix Diaz of EL CONFIDENCIAL. The contract “is on the verge of being signed with a few minor details in the negotiations” still to be worked out. The deal is likely to be for three years. The relationship between the Spanish Football League (LFP) and BBVA began in ’06 when the bank sponsored La Liga B. In ‘08 the sides agreed to a three-year deal for La Liga worth €60M. In ‘11, the contract was extended for an additional two years through June 30, 2013. In the coming weeks, “the next contract will be signed” (EL CONFIDENCIAL, 3/8).

National Rugby League side Cronulla has "rejected the Tynan Motor Group's major sponsorship proposal" despite the club slashing its asking price 50% since last month, according to Adrian Proszenko of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The Sutherland Shire car dealership "made a final pitch to the Sharks, the only NRL club without a major backer, on Wednesday night." However, Cronulla refused the offer, claiming that "it was too low." Cronulla Commercial Operations & Marketing GM Patrick Woods said, "We met and discussed a potential partnership opportunity for our major front-of-jersey asset but unfortunately we haven't come to terms. We had a target figure for the front of jersey and that has been reviewed since the ACC press conference and adjusted accordingly. There has been a reduction of 50 percent. We negotiated in good faith but we were a long way short" (SMH, 3/14).

British motorcycle team Paul Bird Motorsport has agreed to a sponsorship deal with adult website, according to AS. The deal is for one year and will see the website "become the team's title sponsor." exec Tom White said, "All the people of are very excited with the new agreement. I have certainty that this is the beginning of a fruitful and longterm relationship." It is "not guaranteed" that the team will be able to wear its new ads in the first MotoGP of the year on April 7 in Qatar "due to the restrictive norms of the country" (AS, 3/13).

The Swiss Football Association (SFV) and sports marketing agency SPORTFIVE have expanded their partnership. SPORTFIVE will be in charge of LED boards in camera view at home games of the Swiss national team as well as for the Swiss Cup. The new deal includes all matches in which the SFV uses LED boards such as World Cup qualification games. In addition to acquiring sponsors for the LED boards, SPORTFIVE will also be in charge of logistic, technical execution and on-site service as well as production of animations and the coordination between the association and stadium operators (SPORTFIVE).

Despite 22 of Australia's 35 Olympic medals in London hanging around the necks of women, "females in sport are still lagging behind their male counterparts when it comes to securing sponsors," according to Elise Scott of the AAP. Last year, "just two of Australia's top 50 highest earners in sport were women," with the top female earner, tennis player Samantha Stosur, bringing in A$11M ($11.4M) less than the highest male earner. Stosur's $2.5M pay packet "landed her at 20 on the BRW sports rich list." Last month, Australian Gold Medalist hurdler Sally Pearson indicated on Twitter that despite bringing home Olympic gold for the 100m hurdles in London, "her gold coins are becoming scarcer." Pearson tweeted in February, "Can't believe I would actually lose sponsors rather than gain them after winning the Olympic Games." Sports sociologist and author Dr. David Rowe said that "the disparity in sponsorship between men and women in sport had historical roots." Rowe: "You need attention to acquire the sponsorship. How do you get the attention? You get on TV. How do you get on TV? Well, you're an established male sport" (AAP, 3/15).

Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) club Fraport Skyliners have agreed to a new partnership with energy supplier Mainova AG. The new premium partner will become the club's presenting partner for its free livestream, which can be accessed on, and (Fraport Skyliners). ... AirAsia will continue to support Malaysian motorcycling rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin in his campaign in the Moto3 category of the world championship for this year. It is the fourth year of sponsorship from AirAsia who have backed the 21-year-old since his debut race at the Malaysian Grand Prix in '09 (STAR ONLINE, 3/14). ... The Badminton World Federation has announced sponsorship deals with Chinese sport apparel company Li Ning and energy drink brand Red Bull China, which run until '16. This will be the first time that the BWF has had global sponsorships for its main events (INSIDE THE GAMES, 3/13).