Ferrari in Wonderland?

Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro needs to find a big new sponsor to replace Vodafone in 2007 and there are whispers in Italy that the team is already well on its way to a big new deal with Alice, the broadband service of Telecom Italia. Alice is at the start of an aggressive expansion programme in Europe and Telecom Italia, a Ferrari sponsor a few years back with its TIM mobile brand, has earmarked $2.5bn in investment for the development of Alice in Italy and the plan is for the service to be in 8m homes by the end of next year. Alice has already entered the French and German markets, having bought up the broadband assets of Tiscali and others. The service offers music, games, movies, sports and onlone television, which offers the viewers the opportunity to watch what they want, when they want to on their home TV via a broadband connection offering direct access to a wide range of on-demand content, including over 350 movies and TV series, news, soccer matches and, in the near future, live concerts and reality shows.

Ferrari is the perfect fit for Alice for a number of reasons, not least because it reflects a high-technology image which telephone companies are interested in. There are clearly bigger bigger international ambitions for Alice and in addition to the America's Cup sponsorship there are already international sponsorships in the European rugby championship and in MotoGP in which Alice is the sponsor of several races and is an official partner of the Marlboro-funded Ducati motorcyle team (and previously involved with Aprilia). Oddly enough there have been rumours that the firm is moving on to fund Valentino Rossi in an Alice Yamaha team in 2006. Rossi, it should be remembered, is regularly testing for Ferrari at the moment and may have a future in F1 in 2007.

And it does not end there. Alice has been built up with a deliberate link with the colour red. Its Internet portal is called RossoAlice ("rosso" being red in Italian) and it is also the sponsor of the America's Cup yacht "Luna Rossa", which is entered in the sailing competition by Prada and the Yacht Club Italiano.

With Rossi at Ferrari (unlikely though that may seem) there could not be a better sponsor for "The Reds".

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