LONDON Nov 26 British horse racing's Grand
National has joined a growing sporting scramble for corporate
cash after Heineken's John Smith's beer said it would
end its title sponsorship of the world famous steeplechase next
Competition for sponsors' pounds is tough in Britain where
the economy is stagnating and major events like the London
Olympics and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games have sucked up some
of the money that is available.
UK Athletics is aiming to recruit a new group of sponsors
after insurer Aviva pulled out, while England's cricket
team is also looking for a new shirt sponsor to replace Brit
Insurance from 2014.
The Grand National race at Aintree is one of the highlights
of the jump racing calendar but its image has been marred by the
deaths of 33 horses since 1973, leading to calls for smaller
fields and more changes to the gruelling course.
The decision to end the sponsorship after nine years was a
commercial one although the safety record had been a
consideration, said David Jones, a spokesman for Heineken UK.
John Smith's is one of the Dutch brewer's brands.
"The publicity we have had as a sponsor has been more
positive than negative," he said, adding the company might
remain a backer of the race in some form.
John Smith's is believed to have spent almost 20 million
pounds ($32 million) on the title sponsorship and related
marketing since 2005.
It now plans to focus its marketing activities on consumers
in pubs, clubs and supermarkets to help counter a declining
market for ales.
Parent company Heineken was a sponsor of the London 2012
Olympics and also backs European soccer and rugby club