UBS’ Formula One sponsorship under the microscope

23 September 2011 | Posted in SportsPro Blog | By David Cushnan | Contact the author

UBS’ Formula One sponsorship under the microscope

In the wake of UBS’ US$2.3 billion loss at the hands of rogue trader Kweku Adoboli, the Swiss bank’s finances are being more closely scrutinized than ever and its sports sponsorships are no exception.

UBS made a grand entry into Formula One last year, signing a five-year deal said to be worth as much as US$40 million a year to become a global partner of the sport. Leading motorsport marketing agency Just Marketing International (JMI) brokered the deal, which also includes title sponsorship of the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.

“It’s a very sizeable, long-term deal at a time when not a lot of people are doing deals of that size in Formula One,” says JMI founder Zak Brown. “It was newsworthy because it was also the financial sector; RBS had left, ING had left so it was a recovery point for the sector. It’s probably the largest deal done in Formula One in the last few years.”

The activation of the deal, also handled by JMI, has included some novel touches not seen before in the sport. UBS’ logo now sits above the start lights at every race, a first for a sponsor in the sport, while the company’s branding has appeared in a variety of television friendly locations, including angled logos in the white sections of kerbing. “The start lights were something that we developed with Bernie that was new and unique,” Brown explains. “UBS has a lot of creative input into it but the kerbs specifically were Bernie’s idea. That’s signature signage because UBS use the kerbs a lot in their advertising campaign.

 “We do all the activation,” Brown continues, “and run their hospitality, promotions and B2B events. Our job is to make sure, on UBS’ behalf, that they get the best value out of the sport. You’ve got to make sure you’re not lazy as a sponsor, you’ve got to keep it fresh and keep pushing the envelope. UBS does a lot internally. We have some clients that give us everything and some clients that build up internally and use us. UBS is very good, have pushed very hard – it’s a big investment for them, it’s one of their major efforts to rebuild their brand.”

UBS’ biggest previous sports sponsorship was with the America’s Cup-winning Alinghi team, before the company made a strategic move and focused its sponsorship efforts on the arts. Formula One, therefore, represents something of a return. “The America’s Cup doesn’t run all the time so I think they wanted a platform that was annual. Asia is very important to them and I’m not sure how much reach America’s Cup has into that market. Certainly, it doesn’t have the impact that Formula One has. UBS still has their arts sponsorship so that hasn’t gone away but I think this is the right message to the right audience on a global basis, on a repeatable basis. At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a big global sport, Formula One comes up as one or two.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2011 edition of SportsPro. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.

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