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F1 sponsorship falls to five year low

NEWS STORY
27/03/2010

We all know that F1 has fallen on hard times when it comes to securing sponsorship. The bare liveries of the HRT and Sauber alone are the best examples of this since, even in its darkest days, Minardi, F1's most famous backmarker, still managed to get enough sponsors to cover its cars. How times have changed. Writing in the Financial Times today, Pitpass' business editor Chris Sylt reveals that in 2010 the F1 teams are receiving £77m ($115m) less sponsorship than they did last year.

Not only is this is the biggest fall in the past five years, but the £474m ($705m) the sport's 12 teams will receive from sponsorship in 2010 (see box) is also their lowest total take in the past five years. Remarkably this slump comes despite the number of teams in the sport rising from 10 to 12 this year.

Commercial interest in the sport has clearly been dented by the economic downturn but the extent of this hasn't been clear until now.

Lotus, HRT, Virgin and Sauber, the four teams which joined F1 this year struggled to secure enough sponsorship to cover their budgets which average £43m ($64m). HRT receives an estimated £21.2m ($32m) from its owners and two drivers with just £335,000 ($500,000) coming to the team from sponsorship. Remarkably this is a massive 490 times less than Ferrari's £165m ($245m) sponsorship take this year.

Even Lotus, the best-sponsored of the new outfits, is receiving an estimated £24m ($35m) from its owners including Tony Fernandes boss of the Air Asia airline. It puts the future of the new teams in question as economic fluctuations could jeopardise the contributions from their owners.

Overall, average sponsorship revenues per team have plunged by 28.4% on 2009 to £40m ($59m). The drop was driven by the departure of several of the biggest-spending sponsors including ING and Panasonic who together paid £84m ($125m) annually.

Some existing sponsors have increased their spend, most notably Petronas and Santander who will be contributing £37m ($55m) and £34m ($50m) to Mercedes and Ferrari respectively this season. However, few of the 29 new sponsors that have entered F1 are big spenders and none are believed to be paying more than £7m ($10m) annually.

Although the budgets of the smaller teams have been damaged most by the sponsorship drought, in contrast, several of the top teams have improved their performance. In another record, the amount paid by Ferrari's sponsors represents 35% of total F1 team sponsorship revenues thanks largely to a new deal with Spanish bank Santander.

Red Bull Racing also boosted its sponsorship after its best-ever finish in the standings last year. The team's sponsorship tally increased by £9.9m ($14.7m) to £21.6m ($32.2m) as it was joined by brands including Pepe Jeans and financial broker FXDD. However, its biggest backer is not a sponsor but the team's owner - the Red Bull drinks company which pours in an estimated £67m ($100m) to the team annually. The car manufacturers may have left in their droves but the era of billionaire benefactors in F1 is far from over.

Formula One Team Sponsorship Revenues 2010

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