India's Tata Comms seeks brand boost via F1

LONDON Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:46am EST

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LONDON (Reuters) - India's Tata Communications, seeking to raise its profile around the globe, unveiled a technology partnership with Formula One motor racing on Thursday, a further sign of the sport's growing appeal in emerging markets.

Tata Communications will use its undersea cable and its IT networks to transmit data and live video from the 20 Grand Prix locations as the circuit tours the globe. It will also host the Formula1.com website in a multi-year deal for which financial terms were not disclosed.

Company CEO Vinod Kumar said the company, part of India's Tata Group conglomerate, saw the partnership as a chance to enhance its image with business customers. The deal differs from the traditional form of sponsorship where companies pay to get their name on cars or drivers' suits and helmets.

"Brand recognition is a challenge for someone like us," Kumar said at a news conference in London, alongside Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone.

"There is no better brand for us to associate ourselves with," said Kumar, adding that the company had looked at golf and tennis before settling on Formula One, which he said would be a demanding environment.

"If we can do it for Formula One, we can do it for anyone else," he said.

However, the deal will come at a price for loss-making Tata Communications. "It's a lot of money," said Kumar when asked about financial details.

Ecclestone, the veteran businessman who has built up Formula One into a series watched by hundreds of millions around the globe, said the agreement was long overdue for a sport that prides itself on innovation.

"We've been a little bit asleep to this type of communications," he said. "It's nothing to do with sponsorship. We were offered a service that we need."

Ecclestone has been adept at spreading Formula One around the globe, taking it into emerging markets and cutting back on the number of races held in mature European markets.

India staged its first race last October and has been retained on the calendar for the coming season.

He said he was "very, very proud" of the progress the sport had made in India, the world's second most populous country, adding that people there had not heard of the sport as recently as four or five years ago.

(Editing by Will Waterman)

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