Vodafone to end McLaren sponsorship

McLarenVodafone is to end its long-running sponsorship of Formula One racing after announcing it will ditch its deal with McLaren at the end of this year.

The mobile phone group's decision, which follows a review of its marketing strategy, will bring to a close an association with Formula One dating back more than a decade.

Vodafone signed the McLaren deal in 2007, which is said to be worth 75 million US dollars (£50 million) a year.

Morten Lundal, Vodafone's group chief commercial officer, said the decision came as part of a wider overhaul to market the brand to consumers more directly, for example through digital interactions and live events.

He added: "We have been very happy with our engagement with McLaren. Our relationship has been a key ingredient in bringing the Vodafone brand to where it is today. However, our brand is evolving and we've concluded we will have less of a need for this kind of exposure in future."

Vodafone has already exited other global sponsorship campaigns, such as previous long-term deals with the England cricket team, Champions League football and more recently sponsorship of the Australian cricket team last year.

But it is also thought Vodafone's move to review its Formula One sponsorship was in part prompted by the group's unease over the decision to run the Bahrain Grand Prix last year despite a violent uprising in the country.

McLaren has already started the search for a replacement sponsor and confirmed it will announce on December 2 what will be only the fifth title sponsor in the team's history.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: "We're immensely proud that, having been set a number of ambitious challenges by Vodafone back in 2007, together we've met or exceeded each and every one. Our focus is on continuing to drive results for all our partners throughout the 2013 season, and we look forward to making a major title partnership announcement towards the end of the year."

In their six years to date, McLaren and Vodafone have enjoyed 34 grand prix victories, as well as winning the 2008 drivers' world title with Lewis Hamilton at the helm. Vodafone sponsored Ferrari before joining up with McLaren.

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