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Jordan and Mastercard

THE word on the street in Formula 1 commercial circles is that Eddie Jordan will not only keep his sponsorship from Benson╩&╩Hedges next year but will get additional backing from Mastercard. The team has yet to announce which engine it will be using in 1998 but if Peugeot departs - as expected - the team will lose its backing from Total, which will follow Peugeot to Prost Grand Prix.

The Benson & Hedges deal is unlikely to be disrupted by the entry of British American Tobacco into F1, despite the fact that BAT sells Benson & Hedges outside Europe and America. The Jordan sponsorship deal comes from the British-based Gallaher Group, which was floated for $3.1bn last week on the London Stock Exchange and is now independent of its US parent American Brands, which has decided to get out of the tobacco industry.

The Mastercard deal was to have funded Lola's F1 program for the next four years but the team did not have the start-up money necessary to survive until Mastercard funds arrived. Despite the setback Mastercard seems to believe that the innovative marketing idea will work. In fact the scheme has risk for Mastercard International Inc., as the money is raised by its customers who pay to join an exclusive F1 membership scheme which gives them a range of benefits not available to the average F1 fan. Mastercard hopes that 100,000 of its 370 million cardholders - a tiny percentage - will sign up for the scheme, thus producing sponsorship of $10m a year.

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