With six years still to go on its deal, international banking firm Investec has pulled the plug on its sponsorship of the famous Epsom Derby horse race.

A media statement issued by the racecourse stated: “Investec have arrived at an end to the relationship by ‘mutual consent’ with Jockey Club racecourses, which owns the Surrey track.”

When Investec took over the Derby sponsorship from Vodafone in 2009, it entered the project with great determination. One media comment at the time stated: “We view sponsorship as an excellent way to communicate our brand to an audience which already shows a passion and interest in the race.”

Three years ago, Investec extended the deal to support both the Derby and Oaks until 2026.

Then along came Covid-19 and the closure of racing in the UK. When it was announced that the sport would resume behind closed doors, a decision was made to reduce the two-day Epsom meeting to just one.

The cracks in the relationship started to show in mid-May when the UK Daily Mail reported that the banking firm was demanding a rebate of £3m as a result of the change. It argued that the new arrangements significantly devalue its sponsorship.

The Daily Mail added that “the financial services company’s interest in racing has waned since co-founder Bernard Kantor left the firm in 2019”.

“This year they were unable to entertain clients at the course with corporate hospitality — one of the main drivers of such sponsorship deals.

“The withdrawal signals a change of marketing strategy and completes the exit from sports’ sponsorship, which had previously backed the England cricket team and England’s women hockey team,” the paper added.

So now one of the biggest sporting events on the calendar requires a new backer. And in these tough financial times, they are few and far between.

SA is very much in the same boat. A year ago, the Vodacom Durban July carried a gross stake of R4.25m. The purse for the 2020 race was just R1.5m.

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