Marketing

Mercedes to pull €4.7m Kingspan Formula 1 sponsorship – report

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Formula 1 team Mercedes is reported to have pulled a major sponsorship deal with Irish insulation group Kingspan after an outcry from survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Britain’s Daily Mail has reported that both sides have agreed to step back from the deal ahead of this week’s Formula 1 season finale in Abu Dhabi where Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has a chance to retain his title.

The Cavan company’s logo appeared on the Mercedes cars of drivers Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas for the first time last week at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, which Hamilton won, with Bottas finishing third.

The high profile sponsorship, announced just a week ago, was pitched as part of Mercedes F1’s sustainability programme. The Daily Mail valued the deal at £4 million (€4.7 million) a year.

Some Kingspan insulation material was used on the refurbishment of the Grenfell Tower in London before a fire in June 2017 that killed 72 people. The company has always insisted that its products were used without its knowledge or advice. An inquiry into the blaze is ongoing.

Backlash

It is understood that, following a backlash from both Grenfell survivors and UK politicians, both sides have accepted that the timing of the sponsorship arrangement is not sustainable, especially with the Grenfell inquiry ongoing.

Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, apologised to Grenfell survivors and bereaved relatives last Friday, ahead of the race in Jeddah, and thanked the campaign group Grenfell United for an offer to meet after its condemnation of the deal with Kingspan.

British housing secretary, Michael Gove, said last Thursday that the UK government could amend advertising rules for racing cars if Mercedes did not pull the partnership with Kingspan.

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Asking Mercedes to reconsider, he said he was “deeply disappointed” the team was accepting sponsorship from Kingspan while an inquiry was ongoing.

In a statement released last Friday Kingspan said it “played no role in the design of the cladding system on Grenfell Tower, where its K15 product constituted approximately 5 per cent of the insulation and was used as a substitute product without Kingspan’s knowledge in a system that was not compliant with the building’s regulations”.

However, the company has been criticised at the inquiry over a decision to rely on an older fire safety test pass to sell the K15 foam board insulation for use on buildings in the UK even after new tests, conducted after the company had changed the composition of its product, had shown they burned “like a raging inferno” in the words of evidence given to the inquiry.

Kingspan had no comment to make on the Daily Mail report on Wednesday. – additional reporting Guardian

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