BT pulls out of Global Challenge

"BT has achieved what it set out to do," says BT Ignite spokesman

Monday July 23rd 2001, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
BT has announced today that it is not renewing its title sponsorship of the Global Challenge. BT has been associated with Chay Blyth's fully-crewed race round the world the 'wrong' way since its inception in 1989 - first as a communications sponsor and since 1993 as title sponsor.

The event has been sponsored most recently by BT Ignite. John Luff, vice president brand and reputation, said: "This decade of sponsorship has been incredibly successful for BT in terms of both brand awareness and media coverage. However, time moves on and as BT realigns its business objectives it needs to find other ways of showcasing its new technology.

"Not renewing the sponsorship was a very difficult decision for the company but we feel BT has achieved what it set out to do. This now leaves the door wide open for other companies to exploit the opportunities presented by the sponsorship."

He added that this is not the end of BT's involvement in Global Challenge. "We already have a significant number of activities planned to communicate the learning from the Global Challenge 2000/01 and we look forward to working with the new title sponsor and Challenge Business in the future."

Sir Chay Blyth, Executive Chairman of Challenge Business, which runs the Global Challenge said: "Over the years we've developed a fantastic working relationship with the BT team and made some firm friends. BT and Challenge Business have worked together to build Global Challenge into a major global sporting event and the technology BT provided on the yachts and back at Race HQ enabled millions around the world to follow the excitement of the race at land or at sea."

"But looking to the future we're now fully geared-up to finding a replacement sponsor for the titleship and working closely with them so they can get as much out of the race as BT has achieved over the years," explained Sir Chay.

The announcement comes at a time when BT is consolidating its interests in Europe, whereas BT Ignite is British Telecommunications plc's global division. The company is still involved with Cowes Week, the America's Cup Jubilee and Ellen MacArthur.

Phil London, formerly head of the BT Global Challenge, now Head of Events for BT Ignite told madforsailing that BT's rationalisation was a consideration but not the prime reason for its withdrawal. He also confirmed that it does not necessarily signify BT's complete withdrawal from yachting sponsorship. "It is the ideal vehicle for proving that communications work in any conditions. BT is not getting out of this business. I know very well that we will be looking for another project or sponsorship where we can make as much impact as we have with the BT Global Challenge. Whether it is in sailing or not - we will have to see."

It is likely that BT will continue to be involved with the Global Challenge in terms of the communications technology used during the future races.

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