Santander sponsors McLaren Mercedes F1

Santander, the Spanish financial services group that owns Abbey, has signed a five-year sponsorship deal with Formula One (F1) team McLaren Mercedes. The deal will see F1 world champion Fernando Alonso become an ambassador for the brand.

The company hopes the deal will reflect its growing global presence and enhance its international image. F1 reaches an audience of 2 billion people in 200 countries, and the sport is growing in markets such as China.

Juan Manuel Cendoya, Santander head of communications, corporate marketing and research, says it is part of a rolling programme to rebrand its international operations as Santander in more than 40 markets. There are no current plans to rename Abbey, which Santander acquired in 2004.

Santander will become a corporate partner of the team from January at the same time Vodafone takes up title sponsorship of the team. The contract allows Santander to put its brands on the team’s 2007 cars, on the drivers’ and mechanics’ overalls and helmets. The agreement also allows the group to use the image of the car and of Alonso to promote its financial services globally.

Vodafone signed a deal with the team in December last year. It will be renamed Vodafone McLaren Mercedes from January. The telecoms provider has sponsored rival Ferrari since 2002 in a deal worth £23m a year, but the partnership expires at the end of this season.

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