Brawn GP's incredible one-two success in the 2009 curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix last weekend appears to have opened the floodgates in terms of sponsorship for the ex-Honda F1 outfit – with a $30 million Virgin deal in the pipeline quite possibly merely the tip of the iceberg following a wholly unexpected victory that 'has performed wonders'.
Virgin came on-board with the Brackley-based concern – which, seemingly down-and-out and predicted by many not to even see out the winter after being put up for sale by Honda back in December, has become Formula 1's greatest modern-day comeback story – just prior to the Melbourne outing, but the initial agreement was only for the opening two grands prix, at a rate of $250,000 a race [see separate story – click here
However, in the light of the squad's outstanding performance Down Under – with Jenson Button leading home team-mate Rubens Barrichello in a crushing display of dominance, after the duo had already locked out the front row of the starting grid the previous day – it seems that agreement is about to be not just extended, but significantly amplified.
According to Sports Pro Daily Deal
, the Virgin Group – owned by billionaire British entrepreneur Richard Branson, a self-confessed 'cheapskate' – is set to commit to a $30 million title sponsorship contract for the 2010 campaign, in exchange for exclusive rights to sell any other advertising space on the BGP 001 for its own profit. That has prompted one insider to remark: “If it gets $80 million, which it might, Virgin will keep $50 million – it's a good deal.”
The new deal has been aided by F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone, whilst in the meantime the current 2009 arrangement looks set to continue, with Brawn GP understood to be already catered for by a $150 million allowance from Honda. Branson has also hinted that he is interested in purchasing an equity stake in the team – and possibly even re-naming it Virgin.
It has been reported that in terms of global television coverage of the Australian Grand Prix, Virgin will have benefited to the tune of some £8 million, with company logos fully exposed for almost nine minutes over the course of the race weekend.
Meanwhile, Brawn GP CEO Nick Fry has revealed that there are a number of other potential backers in the offing, with the Albert Park triumph having in effect lit the blue touch paper as a number of UK household names have come forward to express a desire to get involved.
“People sense that this is a British team and they want to have that link,” the Englishman told The Times
. “There is no doubt that Jenson's victory has performed wonders for us. Apart from Virgin, we hope to have other companies on-board as soon as we can.”