You probably remember the Vodafone sponsorship with the Scuderia from 2002 until 2006. The younger once probably remember it as the main sponsor for McLaren from 2007 until 2013. Or if you’re a nut like me you remember the branding on the front wing of the Benetton B201. What many probably forgot or simply don’t know is that Jordan Grand Prix was in negotiations with Vodafone for a sponsor deal. There was even a “deal” made. However, it would turn out in one big saga. Here is the story of the Jordan Grand Prix Vodafone sponsor deal that never materialised.
I have to say I completely forgot about the Vodafone saga surrounding Jordan Grand Prix. Someone mentioned me about it as there were even livery designed for the Jordan team with Vodafone sponsorship. When I was asked if I had one I started to read some of the articles published around the deal. It already went back to the summer of 2001, when the telecom giant was a smaller sponsor for the Benetton team.
To be fair I’m not sure if the story I’m writing down here is complete. As I understood the first contact between Eddie Jordan and David Haines, at that time global branding manager at Vodafone, was on the 22nd of March 2001 already. Jordan said that Haines told him in person “you got the deal”. Not long after the telecom giant signed a deal with the Scuderia for 160 million dollar.
Before saying something about the court case itself, lets get a bit deeper into the conversation between Jordan and Haines. According to the casefile, which can be found here, the two had a conversation for about 15minutes discussing the deal. Vodafone would become the title sponsor of Jordan Grand Prix for three seasons 2002 to 2004. In 2002 the company would pay 39million dollar, 50 million would be paid in 2003 and another 52million dollar in 2004. There would be as well a bonus of 9 million dollar. A deal for over 150 million dollar. Which would have helped Jordan Grand Prix massively back in the days.
When you read the court case it already states that David Haines had no authorisation what soever to sign the deal. It seems that Jordan Grand Prix was aware of this. However, if I understood it correctly, there was a representative for Vodafone a bureau called Brown that came with a sponsor agreement between Vodafone and Jordan. Jordan paid 15million dollar to the bureau. Joe Kieser the director of Brown eventually admit that a commission only had to be paid when the deal was signed. This was for any type of deal. So did Jordan have the contract?
No it seems they did not. If you read the files you will see that Vodafone was with several teams in contact. Besides Jordan Grand Prix it was Ferrari, Toyota and Mclaren who were in talks with Vodafone.
Eventually on the 25th of May 2001 Vodafone and Scuderia Ferrari announced their deal for the coming three seasons. Which left the Jordan Grand Prix team with empty hands. It was the start of the court case Jordan Grand Prix started against Vodafone. The team claimed that they had a loss of 150 million dollar. As this was the amount of money agreed on at the deal earlier that year.
What was more frustrating for the team was the fact that Gallagher, known from Benson & Hedges, were not interested anymore to be the teams title sponsor per 2002. They were also sponsor the team less during the following years. As well per 2003 the team had to pay for the Honda engines they were using. This was already concluded in the deal that was made in 2000. Sadly we would see during the coming seasons that the Jordan Grand Prix team was financially struggling and had to hire pay drivers to pay the bills. As well the results on the track became less and less as there was not much money to develop their cars. In 2004 the news came that the Jordan Grand Prix team was sold. The EJ15 powered by the Toyota engine was the last Jordan Grand Prix on the grid.
Fast forwards, on the 2nd of August 2003 the new came out that Jordan Grand Prix would drop the court case against Vodafone. What I didn’t know is that Jean Todt said in Brazil 2003 that the team had to drop the court case. If they would not do it he would not agree with the “fighting fund” to help the smaller teams, at that time Jordan and Minardi, that were struggling financially. As well it was said that in favour of the Formula One the team would leave the case for what it was. Eventually they had to pay 5 million dollar for the costs that were made already. Though it was said the team already calculated it.
What makes this story more interesting, and is the reason for me to write actually about it. Is the fact that there were concept liveries were made with Vodafone as their main sponsor. It seems that companies were asked to make a concept for the livery. Were they shown when speaking with Vodafone already? Well probably not. Nor is it unsure who asked for it. Product Design consultancy Gosolo was asked to make a livery, their concept is posted in their portfolio. I remember there were more liveries however I can’t find them.