MAY 22, 2000

Allianz, Williams and the FIA

THE Williams team announced a major sponsorship deal last weekend with the Allianz Group.

THE Williams team announced a major sponsorship deal last weekend with the Allianz Group. This is worth around $12m a year for the next three years but it is much more significant because it is the first time that a financial services company on the scale of Allianz has become involved in the sport and there are likely to be others entering the sport as a result of the deal.

The company said that it decided to become involved in F1 because it wants to increase brand awareness of the Allianz name on a global scale, but notably in Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region. The decision to go into F1 was decided after considerable market research was conducted and other potential sponsorship routes rejected.

The team had been talking to Allianz for two years and in order to get agreement for the deal decided to involve Allianz with the FIA. The company (which is best known for its vast holdings in the insurance business) has been carrying out safety research for to reduce accidents not only with cars but also in shipping, aviation, power stations and industry. The AllianzÊCentre for Technology's department of automotive engineering has been involved in important research in safety belts, child seats and repair techniques. This technology will be very useful for the FIA as it extends its road safety campaigns. At the same time Allianz says that it wants to use F1 technology to develop new safety ideas.

Another hurdle in the deal was that Allianz is a shareholder in Deutsche Bank (which owns a share in DaimlerChrysler) and in DaimlerChrysler itself so that the deal with BMW needed to get the nod from Mercedes-Benz as well. Although primarily an insurance company, Allianz has been diversifying into financial services and asset management. It currently manages investment worth $640bn and has a turnover of $50bn.

We hear that Allianz's rivals Axa is interested in F1 and representatives of Axa were spotted in the paddock at the Nurburgring. There is also talk that another major insurance company, Zurich Re, may be evaluating an involvement in the sport. Zurich Re includes of a number of financial companies which previously belonged to British American Tobacco.

We have also heard a lot in recent days about the huge Swiss banking firm UBS having a close look at F1.