Brawn GP managed to do in less than a month of operation what predecessor Honda couldn't for the past year: bag a high-profile, big-bucks sponsor. Ross Brawn Brawn Grand Prix Team Principal with Sir Richard Branson CEO of the Virgin...
Brawn GP managed to do in less than a month of operation what predecessor Honda couldn't for the past year: bag a high-profile, big-bucks sponsor.
In an announcement Saturday in Melbourne, Australia, where they are assembled for the Formula One season-opener, Ross Brawn of Brawn GP and Sir Richard Branson confirmed a partnership agreement between the nascent F1 team and the many tentacled Virgin Group. The Virgin logo will grace Brawn cars in Sunday's race. The team did not term the agreement a title sponsorship.
Branson had been approached about buying the team once Honda put it up for sale Dec. 5, 2008. Instead, team principal Brawn organized a management buyout. Branson's involvement, he said, hung on two points, that Formula One cut costs, and that the sport become environmentally friendlier. Lacking a title sponsor last season, Honda branded its cars "Earth Dreams" and cloaked them in world-map livery to promote green consciousness.
Since a cratering global car market and the value of the yen forced out Honda, swords have been wielded in F1, slashing everything from driver salaries to team personnel to development costs, as the sport has sought to come to grips with a new financial order. One of the many companies in the venture capital enterprise that is Virgin is a biofuels company begun at California Institute of Technology called Gevo that Branson would brand as Virgin Fuel to be developed for use in Formula One.
"I have always said I would love for Virgin to be involved in Formula One, and I am thrilled that we will be entering this fantastic sport with people as skilled as Ross Brawn and the Brawn GP team," Branson said. "Over the years, Virgin has had the great honor of partnering with technical geniuses, and I truly believe that Ross Brawn is to F1 what Burt Ratan is to space travel with Virgin Galactic. We are confident that the Virgin BGP 001 car driven by Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello will go from strength to strength this season, and we look forward to a great future working with the Brawn GP team."
Although Williams F1's Nico Rosberg proved fastest in all three free practice sessions of the weekend, Brawn GP cars were at the front in an auspicious debut.
"On behalf of the Brawn GP team, we are delighted to have signed a partnership agreement with Sir Richard and Virgin in Melbourne today," Brawn said. "An exciting debut race weekend for our team has become even more important as we have secured our second commercial agreement of the season. We look forward to working closely with the Virgin Group and sharing our on-track successes."
Brawn's first commercial signing was with Manchester, England, clothing manufacturer Henri Lloyd.
Since its founding in 1970 by Branson, the holding company Virgin Group, has become a global brand that has launched more than 200 companies in areas including telecommunications, travel and leisure (space and traditional tourism), transportation (air and rail), media (music and publishing), beverages and financial services. The company employs 50,000 people and showed 2008 revenues of $23 billion.