Branson’s Virgin group enters F1 with Brawn GP

richard-branson-754941Brawn GP unveil Virgin Group as chief sponsor; McLaren’s Ron Dennis says deal a sign of F1’s investability.

Brawn GP have secured major sponsorship backing from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, the team confirmed ahead of qualifying for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.

Branson had been linked to a takeover deal of the former Honda Racing outfit but ruled himself out of the running saying Formula One was not yet ready for his company.

The deal comes at a time when the sport faces increasing pressure to reduce costs and there are fears that it could become harder for smaller teams to attract sponsorship following the loss of banking companies ING and RBS.

But McLaren’s Ron Dennis believes the deal is a testament to the strength of Formula One’s investability.

“Their entry shouldn’t be seen as in some way bucking a trend,” he said. No, despite the global economic downturn, Formula 1’s sponsorship situation remains remarkably robust.

The new the partnership brings together the world championship winning
experience of Ross Brawn and the technical expertise of the Brawn GP
team with the marketing and business skills of Sir Richard Branson’s
Virgin Group.

This is Virgin’s first foray into the world of Formula One and the first
step in what is anticipated to be a broader relationship between the
two.

The Brawn GP team’s BGP 001 car will take to the track at Albert Park
later this afternoon in qualifying for tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix
featuring Virgin branding.

Ross Brawn said: “On behalf of the Brawn GP team, we are delighted to have signed a partnership agreement with Sir Richard and Virgin in Melbourne today. An exciting debut race weekend for our team has become even more important as we have secured our second commercial agreement of the season. We look forward to working closely with the Virgin Group and sharing our on-track successes.”

Sir Richard Branson added: “I have always said I would love for Virgin to
be involved in Formula One and I am thrilled that we will be entering
this fantastic sport with people as skilled as Ross Brawn and the Brawn
GP team.”

“Over the years Virgin has had the great honour of partnering
with technical geniuses and I truly believe that Ross Brawn is to F1
what Burt Ratan is to space travel with Virgin Galactic.”

“We are confident that the Virgin BGP 001 car driven by Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello will go from strength to strength this season and we look forward to a great future working with the Brawn GP team.”

McLaren group chairman Ron Dennis meanwhile welcomed the arrival of Sir Richard Branson to the world of Formula One.

“Sir Richard Branson is a hugely successful global businessman, and it’s
therefore excellent news for Formula 1 that he and the Virgin Group have
entered the sport,” he said.

Dennis also dismissed suggestions that the deal is symptomatic of the global economic downturn saying that Formula One remains a “remarkably robust” arena for global brands.

“Their entry shouldn’t be seen as in some way bucking a trend. No,
despite the global economic downturn, Formula 1’s sponsorship situation
remains remarkably robust.”

“Yes, both ING [Renault] and RBS [Williams] have recently signalled their intention to exit the sport, but that says more about the situation facing those two troubled financial institutions than it does about Formula 1 – just as AIG’s recent decision to end its sponsorship of Manchester United says more about the situation facing that troubled financial institution than it does about Premier League football.”

“Under the umbrella of FOTA, the teams have adopted voluntary
cost-cutting measures this year and have further pledged to reduce costs by 50 per cent next year.

“We firmly believe that this approach will lead to a sustainable Formula 1 which will nonetheless retain the unique DNA and investability that have led all the companies I’ve mentioned above, including the Virgin Group, as well as many dozens of other sponsors in existing relationships with Formula 1 teams, to invest in Formula 1’s unique DNA and thereby gain enormous returns on those investments.”

He continued: “This year alone, we [McLaren Mercedes] have struck new
sponsorship deals with Akzo Nobel, one of the world’s leading
chemical/manufacturing corporations, and Lenovo, one of the world’s
leading computer manufacturers, while we’ve also very recently renewed
our deal with Kangaroo TV.”

“Equally, the Korean electronics giant LG has recently entered into an
official sponsorship relationship with Formula 1, while BMW have cut new
sponsorship arrangements recently with both FxPro and Gauteng.
Meanwhile, Red Bull have just announced new deals with Casio, Nautilus
and Trust. Recent sponsorship renewals have been Panasonic [Toyota],
Philips [Williams] and Allianz [Williams].”