x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Grand Prix teams chase UAE sponsors

Members of two Formula One racing teams with ties to the UAE will visit the capital next month to help drum up interest in sports sponsorships.

Nick Fry, chief executive of Brawn GP.
Nick Fry, chief executive of Brawn GP.

ABU DHABI // Members of two Formula One racing teams with ties to the UAE will visit the capital next month to help drum up interest in sports sponsorships. Nick Fry, the chief executive of the world champions Brawn GP, and Max Rivola, the sporting director of Ferrari, are scheduled to speak at the first Arabian Sponsorship Forum.

"Sponsorship is incredibly important across all global sports and a key component of the commercial plan for Formula One teams," Mr Fry said. The two-day conference is intended to stimulate corporate interest in sponsorships, which attract billions of dollars globally each year. Two Government-owned companies recently bought into F1 teams. The Brawn GP team became Mercedes Grand Prix following investments by Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments and Daimler, the German owner of Mercedes-Benz. Aabar owns 30 per cent of the new team.

The Ferrari team is partly owned by Mubadala Development, an Abu Dhabi investment firm. The company's five per cent stake has helped raise its profile, with "Mubadala" and "Abu Dhabi" appearing on Ferrari's F1 cars over the past two seasons. The Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways is another company that has used sponsorship to drive its business, said Jamie Cunningham, managing director of Professional Sports Group, the event's organisers.

Etihad has a sponsorship deal with Ferrari that puts the firm's name on the rear wing and side of the Italian company's F1 cars. Etihad also sponsors Chelsea Football Club, Manchester City and Harlequins rugby club. The conference also hopes to create interest among Arabic business students. Professors from 10 universities have been approached about letting students attend, Mr Cunningham said. "At the moment sponsorship doesn't really exist in the undergraduate world.

"We are trying to educate the corporate world as well that when you are involved with an event or sponsorship you can derive a lot of real commercial returns out of it for your brand and your business. "We will hopefully be talking to a lot of the private Arabic companies about how they can use sponsorship to further their goals. "If they have graduates and undergraduates joining them who actually understand the industry, it's a win-win."

As part of the forum, the region's first Arabian Sponsorship Awards will be presented on December 14. Entry to the awards will be made available to universities, which could be used as part of students' course work. The conference is being held under the patronage of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research. mchung@thenational.ae