Vodafone Ends Formula One Sponsorship With McLaren Racing Team

Vodafone Group Plc, the second-largest mobile-phone company, will end its sponsorship of the McLaren Formula One racing team at the end of the year.

Vodafone, which has reviewed its sponsorship strategy, is shifting its focus on live events and digital campaigns to increase awareness of its brand, the Newbury, U.K.-based company said in a statement today.

“Our brand is evolving, and we’ve concluded we will have less of a need for this kind of exposure in the future,” Chief Commercial Officer Morten Lundal said. “We have been very happy with our engagement with McLaren.”

Vodafone was able to brand the cars with its Verizon Wireless logo in the first U.S. Formula One race since 2007 last year. Since 2007, Vodafone and McLaren have had 34 Grand Prix victories, and last season won seven races. McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton, who was world champion in 2008, has switched to the Mercedes team this year.

A Vodafone spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the release. The McLaren deal cost Vodafone as much as $75 million a year, the Financial Times reported earlier today, citing people familiar with the contract. The sponsorship deal began in 2007.

“Our focus is on continuing to drive results for all our partners throughout the 2013 season, and we look forward to making a major title partnership announcement towards the end of the year,” said Martin Whitmarsh, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team principal.

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