GSK set to bail out of major F1 sponsorship

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is close to terminating the high-profile sponsorship deal between NiQuitin, its nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) product, and the BMW Williams Formula One racing team.

The deal, which was signed 18 months ago, was thought to be worth up to &£10m a year (MW April 17, 2003). GSK and Williams are still in talks but sources close to the company say that the pharmaceuticals company is planning to withdraw from the deal unless the team considerably lowers its fee.

One insider says the company believes the deal has achieved its goal by making a large public relations impact when it was launched midway through the season last year. But he says that GSK has not leveraged the sponsorship since and does not see the association as essential to its core market.

GSK’s departure would be a disappointment for the sport, which is eager to find replacement packaged goods sponsors after a European ban on tobacco brands comes into effect next summer.

A spokesman for GSK refuses to comment on the deal. Last month, GSK launched a &£4m European ad campaign under the umbrella banner “Quittin’ with NiQuitin”.

The withdrawal by GSK follows a multi- million pound deal that Williams is set to sign with the Royal Bank of Scotland as its headline sponsor. The team is competing with McLaren and BAR Honda for the deal (MW August 26).

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