Williams signs Bud in £50m F1 deal

Formula One team BMW Williams is to sign beer giant Budweiser as a sponsor in a five-and-a-half year deal worth about &£10m a year.

The beer brand will be positioned prominently on the team’s cars in time for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in two weeks. Budweiser has been rumoured to be in the market for a F1 sponsorship deal since Christmas. The company recently unveiled its forthcoming ad campaign, styling its beer as the “King of Sports”.

A BMW Williams spokesman confirms that the team will announce a co-sponsor before the Silverstone event. He adds that the sponsor will be undertaking “an awful lot of advertising and promotion” on the back of the deal.

Williams’ Formula One team signed up GlaxoSmithKline’s Niquitin CQ in April (MW April 17). Other sponsors of the team include Allianz, Castrol, FedEx, Hewlett-Packard and Reuters.

Ferrari is also in talks about a title sponsorship deal to replace Marlboro when the tobacco company is forced to withdraw in 2006, owing to the European ban on tobacco advertising. Industry speculation has linked Vodafone to an improved title sponsorship deal.

The signing is a major coup for Williams at a time when Formula One is bracing itself for the loss of tobacco advertising. With four teams sponsored by tobacco companies – including Ferrari by Marlboro, Maclaren by West and Jordan by Benson & Hedges – there will be a scramble to attract companies with similar resources to match previous sponsorship deals. Tobacco companies are estimated to pay more than &£150m a year in sponsoring Formula One teams.

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