Euro Rugby Cup in sponsor hunt

The European Rugby Cup (ERC) is searching for a new sponsor in a deal that could be worth up to £6m a year following the shock decision by founding partner Heineken to withdraw its support.

Europe’s premier club rugby trophy has been known as the Heineken Cup since it was created in 1995. The ERC has asked sports marketing agencies IMG and Team Marketing to hunt for a sponsor to take over from the beer brand, whose deal expires next year.

The ERC is understood to want about £6m for the title rights to the cup, which involves 24 teams from eight countries including England, France and Italy.

Heineken renewed its sponsorship of the cup first in 1999, when it signed a four-year £20m deal, and then again in 2003 for a further two years in a deal that was worth about £4m a year.

Sources say Heineken no longer considers the deal to be useful for the brand across Europe, where its image is more trendy. Sources add that there has been a disagreement over the past few months between the different countries where the tournament is shown about the effectiveness of the sponsorship.

Earlier this month, Marketing Week revealed that Heineken was also reviewing its involvement in the Champions League, with a view to swapping the £45m deal held by Amstel to the parent Heineken brand (MW November 4).

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