Heineken set for tie-up with two Formula 1 teams

Formula 1's new multi-million pound sponsor Heineken is to extend its reach by becoming involved with two teams, one of which is almost certain to be Red Bull

Heineken set for tie-up with two Formula 1 teams

The brewing giant last week became F1's global beer partner, spending $150million for the privilege over the next four and a half years.

Although not officially due to start until its sponsorship of the Italian Grand Prix from September 2-4, as a 'welcome present' from F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, its distinctive green branding featured prominently at trackside in Canada.

Heineken will also form a partnership with two F1 teams, although its logo will not feature on the cars or drivers' overalls.

"We are not going to have any real sponsorship with any team, it will be more about access," explained senior director Gianluca di Tondo.

"It's what we call the team experience, and for a regular fan.

"I want to bring a lucky few to the garage. I want them to have a chat and a walk as I did in Melbourne with Jackie [Stewart] because that's mind-blowing, it's the experience of a lifetime.

"We were walking together and then we bumped into Niki Lauda, and I was dreaming as I had two three-time world champions alongside me. It was incredible, and that's what I would like other people to experience."

Red Bull is favourite for a Heineken tie-up, although di Tondo is looking for a second team to play a part.

Existing relationships with other alcohol brands mean Williams (Martini), McLaren (Chandon and Johnnie Walker) and Force India (Smirnoff and Kingfisher) are unlikely to be called upon.

"Of course, we are very close to Red Bull as we live in the same space, we know each other very well, and Max Verstappen could play a role," said di Tondo.

"But we are also thinking of linking ourselves with another team.

"Nothing is set in stone yet, but yes, as I say, we are very close to Red Bull."

As a young fresh face Verstappen's rising status would certainly prove a draw for Heineken, particularly as it has vowed to drag F1 into the digital age.

Heineken already has a range of brand ambassadors including former Wales rugby captain Scott Quinnell and former Spain footballer Carles Puyol, while Sir Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard have been recruited for F1.

A decision over Heineken's preferred two teams will be made before the race in Italy.

Explaining why Heineken shies away from team or individual sponsorship, di Tondo said: "It's a rule we set ourselves with regard to the Heineken brand many years ago.

"We focus our partnership on where we can add value as a brand, so in Formula 1 we won't play any role on the cars, or on the drivers. We play a role outside.

"If you take the UEFA Champions League or the Rugby World Cup, we sponsor the competition, we never sponsor individual sports teams."

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Series Formula 1
Author Ian Parkes
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