Vodafone denies dumping $75M sponsorship deal over political worries

Vodafone will end its sponsorship of the McLaren Formula One racing team at the end of the year. The operator, which has backed the F1 team since 2007, has rebutted claims reported in The Times that this surprise move was due to the company's unease over the decision to race in Bahrain in 2012.

The company has explained it will be shifting its focus to live events and digital campaigns to increase brand awareness. According to a report in the Financial Times, which cited unnamed sources, the sponsorship cost Vodafone around $75 million (£49.7 million) per year.

"Our brand is evolving, and we've concluded we will have less of a need for this kind of exposure in the future," Morten Lundal, Vodafone's chief commercial officer, told Bloomberg. "We have been very happy with our engagement with McLaren."

However, The Times said Vodafone had been reviewing its involvement with F1 since McLaren's involvement in the Bahrain Grand Prix, which went ahead despite a violent uprising in the country in which thousands of anti-government protesters confronted police.

Vodafone, which has already withdrawn from other global marketing partnerships, such as the England cricket team and Champions League football, said the McLaren decision was not made on price and that it expected to divert a similar amount into a new global branding strategy, according to the Financial Times.

However,  the FT cited unnamed sources who said that the high cost associated with sponsoring the lavish F1 roadshow was seen as out of step with a telecoms business that has been struggling to deal with recession-hit European economies.

For more:
- see this Times article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this FT article (reg. req.)

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