Russian investors "have rescued the financially-stricken Sauber team with a multi-million pound deal that could also put a Russian driver in a Formula One seat next season," according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. Sauber announced on Monday morning that three institutions "have joined as investors: the Investment Cooperation International Fund, the State Fund of Development of North-West Russian Federation and the National Institute of Aviation Technologies." The gloss on the press release was that the deal "will allow a technological partnership, as well as an opportunity to raise the profile of the Russian Grand Prix, scheduled for next year." Team Founder Peter Sauber needed an estimated £1M ($1.5M) immediately "to pay suppliers becoming increasingly restless about Sauber’s debts" while a £20M ($30M) black hole "was also looming in this year’s budget." No financial details have been given, "but it has to be assumed the new Russian backers have stumped up enough to put Sauber back on an even keel and ready to fight out the rest of the season" (LONDON TIMES, 7/15). Sauber said in a statement that the deal gives the team "a solid foundation to increase its competitiveness on a long-term basis" (London DAILY MAIL, 7/15).
UP AND COMING: REUTERS' Alan Baldwin reported Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin "could become Formula One's youngest ever driver next season as part of a financial lifeline keeping the Swiss Sauber team in the sport." Sauber said in a statement that a development program would be set up for Sirotkin "to prepare him as a racing driver for the team in 2014." If that plan comes to fruition -- and it depends on the granting of a super-license and him being deemed ready to take the step -- Sirotkin "would be far younger than Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari was when he made his race debut in 2009 aged 19 years and 125 days." The teenager, who turns 18 in August, "is currently competing in the Formula Renault 3.5 series" (REUTERS, 7/15). In London, Tom Cary reported the inclusion in the deal of the St. Petersburg-based State Fund of Development of Northwest Russian Federation "has led to speculation that Sochi, a Black Sea resort and the host of next year’s Winter Olympics, may not end up being the venue for the Russian GP in the long term" (TELEGRAPH, 7/15).
Online gambling company Bwin.party has agreed to a three-year "digital sponsorship" deal with Italian football champions Juventus, its fourth partnership with a top European team, according to Keith Weir of REUTERS. Bwin had been shirt sponsor of Spain's Real Madrid for the past six seasons, "but has shifted its strategy to try to tap into the online fan base of some of Europe's best-supported teams, looking for a broader spread of deals to build market share." It did not say what the deal with Juventus -- "nicknamed the Old Lady" in Italian football -- was worth. Bwin said that "it expected to announce tie-ups with other teams in coming weeks." France, Belgium and Greece "are other European markets where it could seek" football sponsorships (REUTERS, 7/12).
French cycling team Europcar has received "a boost at the Tour de France" after its main sponsor announced the extension of its current contract with the team, according to the AFP. Uncertainty surrounded the future of Europcar with reports suggesting the car rental company "was about to end its three-year deal without renewing." Europcar announced on Monday that "it would sponsor the team for a further two seasons," until the end of '15 (AFP, 7/15).
The decision of Swiss Super League side FC Zürich "to feature the slogan 'JA zum Stadion!' ('Yes to the stadium!') on its jersey will have consequences," according to Benedikt Widmer of BLICK. The club, which is still looking for a new title sponsor, "featured the slogan in its match against Thun" on Sunday. The city of Zürich "will vote on a proposed new stadium on Sept. 22, and both Zürich-based clubs are in favor of the project." However, the Swiss Football League "forbids political ads on jerseys." The result "could be a heavy fine for the club." SFL spokesperson Philippe Gugisberg said, "It's up to the disciplinary commission. It will decide whether to take action. The clubs actually have to present their jersey ads to the Swiss Football League to get its okay" (BLICK, 7/15).
Looking "to expand its global reach and augment the offerings of its consulting division with additional activation capabilities," Wasserman Media Group has acquired U.K.-based experiential marketing group Ignite, according to Terry Lefton in this week's SPORTSBUSINESSJOURNAL. Ignite’s clients include top sports properties like the NFL, NBA, Premier League and ATP, as well as consumer brands including Barclays, Vodafone, Nike and HP. Ignite "will become part of the WMG Consulting division," headed by Managing Dirs Denise Durante and Elizabeth Lindsey. Lindsey said, "At WMG, we are tasked with doubling the size of the business within five years, and one way to accomplish that is with new and incremental services. Our agency pedigree started with strategy, and we do some activation for clients like Quaker Oats, Lenovo and Verizon, but there’s something satisfying about being able to offer full service to all clients and seeing our strategies played through." Ignite’s 50-plus employees increases the WMG Consulting head count to 120 people, with around half of those in the U.K. Agency Founder and group Managind Dir Fred Porro is relocating from Miami to WMG’s N.Y. City offices, where he will be a WMG Consulting group Senior VP. Durante said, "Bringing a brand to life on the ground in a way that moves sales is the ultimate validation for the strategy work we do, and Ignite has been really innovative there. This builds our experiential services in a way that allows us to offer them globally and in much greater depth" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/15 issue).
Papa John's, the NFL's official pizza sponsor, on Monday announced it has signed an agreement as the official pizza partner of the U.K.'s the Football League. It is the first U.K. sport sponsorship for Papa John's, the world's third-largest pizza company. The deal gives Papa John's exclusive rights to the Football League's marks and its digital assets, including online banners, dedicated emails to league and club fans and exclusive Facebook and Twitter promotions (Papa John's). MARKETING WEEK's Sebastian Joseph reported Papa John's "will target football supporters with bespoke promotions through its franchisees" as the centerpiece of its one-year deal with the League. It will offer thousands of match tickets and promotions in partnership with the League's 72 member clubs from next month, when it kicks off a nationwide campaign to mark the start of the football season. The sponsorship "will also promote the brand's loyalty scheme, launched at the start of the year, in a bid to push its online delivery service." Papa John's Marketing Dir Andrew Gallagher said that the business is "using the 'successful' grassroots sponsorship model it has implemented to support its sponsorship of NFL teams" (MARKETING WEEK, 7/15).
FC Barcelona and Panasonic have signed a three-year sponsorship deal. The agreement will run until '16. Panasonic will obtain a series of rights, including among others brand association, the use of the Barça image and the benefits included in the sponsorship program. Panasonic thus acquires the right to call itself an official partner and to be the official FC Barcelona TV device (FC Barcelona). ... Bundesliga club Hannover 96 has extended its sponsorship deal with Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles for another year. VW Commercial Vehicles has been the club's exclusive car partner since '07 (Hannover 96). ... Second Bundesliga club 1860 Munich officially unveiled Volkswagen as its new main and title sponsor. The club has signed a three-year deal with the car manufacturer until '16. The slogan "Think Blue," which stands for VW's sustainability strategy, will be featured on the team's jersey (1860 Munich). ... Second Bundesliga side FSV Frankfurt and printing company Druckerei E. Sauerland have increased their partnership. Sauerland has been the exclusive printing partner of the club since '12-13. The printing company, which signed a four-year deal with the club back in '12, will move up the club's sponsorship levels to become a "VIP Premium Partner" (FSV Frankfurt).