RBS’s Rugby-Loving CEO Brings an End to Six Nations Sponsorship

  • Edinburgh-based lender has backed tournament since 2003
  • Sponsorship deal won’t be renewed at end of contract in 2017

Ross McEwan, the rugby-mad chief executive officer of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, is bringing an end to the state-owned bank’s 13-year sponsorship of one of the sport’s biggest events.

The Edinburgh-based lender won’t renew its contract to be the headline sponsor of the Six Nations rugby tournament when it expires in 2017, the bank said in a statement on Friday. RBS plans to shift its sponsorship strategy to focus on its British consumer brands as it shrinks its global presence, it said.

The move to sever ties with one of the biggest tournaments in global sport comes after Barclays Plc ended its reign as the sponsor of the English Premier League soccer championships. The changes underscore the shrinking ambitions of Britain’s largest banks as they cut costs and concentrate on their most profitable markets in the wake of the financial crisis and tougher regulations.

“As we focus back on our home markets in the U.K. and Ireland, we have decided not to renew the sponsorship beyond 2017,” RBS Chief Marketing Officer David Wheldon said in the statement. “The time is right to look for alternative sponsorship assets that better fit with our brand strategy.”

RBS Chairman Howard Davies joked at a results presentation in October, around the time of the Rugby World Cup, that New Zealand-born McEwan, 58, and Chief Financial Officer Ewen Stevenson, 50, could be known as the “All Blacks” after the nation’s rugby team. The CEO is an avid follower of the sport and used a notebook emblazoned with the “RBS Six Nations”’ logo at the bank’s annual shareholder meeting in Edinburgh last month.

The sponsorship was worth 43 million pounds ($62.4 million) between 2014 and 2017, when RBS last extended its contract with the organizers in 2013, Reuters reported at the time.

“We wish to extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to RBS for the valuable support we have received from the bank over many years,” Six Nations CEO John Feehan said in a separate e-mailed statement. “All good things must come to a natural end at some point.”

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