Vodafone’s decision to pull out of Formula One may be only a short-lived opportunity for its ad agencies

Vodafone is pulling out of Formula One after sponsoring the McLaren team since 2007 (and before that Ferrari).

The company says it wants to spend the money on more ‘local’ promotions and building the brand (which is supposed to be the reason why you sponsor Formula One). There are various estimates of the cost of Vodafone’s sponsorship (one is $75m a year) but the real cost will be much higher: F! attracts the world’s liggers in a mighty swarm, not to mention almost as many free-spending consultants.

McLaren will doubtless replace Vodafone although the team’s star has fallen somewhat since Ron Dennis stepped down as manager to run the company’s sports car business and top driver Lewis (‘love me or hate me’) Hamilton jetted off in his new private plane to Mercedes.

The interesting aspect of this is will the switch enable Vodafone to put some much-needed oomph into its marketing? The top marketing job at Vodafone has been a musical chair with a trapdoor in recent years and its advertising has suffered accordingly.

The brand looks old and tired, certainly in comparison to 02 and resurgent Three, and people choose phone networks these days according to their choice of handsets anyway.

Vodafone’s share price has been scraping the ceiling recently as the boys in dark glasses hope a bid is on the way from Verizon (Vodafone owns 45 per cent of Verizon Wireless).

So Vodafone’s current agencies (RKCR/Y&R in the UK) may get some new ammunition soon. But maybe not for long.

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