Spanish Savings Banks And Racing Sponsorship: Is The End Near?

Spanish savings banks have been involved in Grand Prix racing since the start of the Dorna era in 1992, when the Banesto bank set up the Spanish racing promoter and then backed its investment in purchasing the TV broadcasting rights of the Road Racing World Championship from the FIM, in partnership with F1 promoter Bernie Ecclestone’s Two Wheels Promotions company.

Banesto had already been the sponsor of 250 double world champion Sito Pons’ team when the Spanish squad was trying to make a name for itself in the 500 class at the start of the Nineties. Since then, many other Spanish banks have been been involved in Grand Prix racing activities but, in a kind of strange irony, speaking about certain Spanish financial institutions in recent times means talk not about money, but rather about the lack of it.

With a number of Spanish regional banks such as Bankia and Catalunya Caixa becoming an important part of Grand Prix racing as sponsors, the news over the past few weeks about Bankia needing the help of the Spanish government to the tune of more than 20 billion euros – as Catalunya Caixa will do as well in the very near future - , has brought into question their continuing in the world championship as sponsors not only of the Spanish Bankia Aspar racing team, with riders in MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3, but also of the Catalunya Caixa team, contesting Moto2 and Moto3.

The Bankia bank became the Aspar 125 team’s title sponsor in 2011 with champion Nico Terol, as a part of an earlier sponsorship agreement between Valencia’s regional bank Bancaja and Spanish former 80 and 125 class world champion Jorge Martinez’s team. But all that happened before Bancaja, Caja Madrid and five other Spanish saving banks merged to become Bankia, in order to satisfy new capital requirements from the European Union and the Spanish Government in 2010. Similarly, Catalunya Caixa was formed in 2011 after the merger of Caixa Catalunya, Caixa Manresa and Caixa Tarragona, all regional saving banks in Catalonia, with the same goal in mind. One of the first marketing measures taken to promote the new Catalunya Caixa brand was to give full sponsorship backing to the 2010 125 world champion and rising star Marc Márquez for the Spaniard’s new Moto2 adventure in 2011.

Saving banks in Spain have experienced massive losses on their balance sheets in the past few years. The main reason can be found in the collapse of the construction business in the country – also know as a “property bubble” - , but some blame can also be attached to the irresponsible actions taken by the managing boards for those same regional banks, those boards consisting of local politicians, employees and labor unions, and even appointees of the Catholic Church as a national institution. Unfortunately, only a very few of those irresponsible actions that have resulted in public funds being needed have been taken to court yet. But the big question for racing fans is how could all of this affect Grand Prix racing?

That’s a difficult question to answer, but a quite easy one to guess at the same time. has contacted both Bankia Aspar and Emilio Alzamora’s Catalunya Caixa teams, in order to find out each team’s point of view on these outside affairs and their vision for a future extension of their individual sponsorship deals for 2013, but both of them have refused to make any comment to several different but related questions we put to them.

It is also worth noting that, in economic terms, the merging of saving banks has not proved to be an ideal solution either, and suspicion is growing that the governing councils of the newly formed savings banks already knew that they were going to need even more money –public money-, in order to absorb their projected future losses in the real estate market. So the immediate question could be whether the savings banks already knew at the time they were planning their sponsorship of Grand Prix racing what was going to come. Theoretically, at least, the answer to this question should be “yes”.

What we do know from a source close to Marquez’s team, who unfortunately cannot be named, is that Catalunya Caixa has already paid Marquez’s Moto2 sponsorship for 2011 and 2012, having paid in full last year. So the team should continue to run without problems for the current season, but the question of whether the team will have Catalunya Caixa support again in 2013 remains unanswered. And something similar can be said about the future of Bankia on the fairings of the Aspar team in 2013.

We do not know whether there any sponsorship agreements have already been signed between these teams and the savings banks for 2013, but if they were to exist, public opinion in Spain would likely regard it as highly controversial. Both Bankia and Catalunya Caixa will need more public money again soon to save them from default, while in the mean time the Spanish government is announcing more and more cuts in public services such as education and health. In an already critical economic atmosphere in Spain at the moment, the continuing controversy surrounding Spanish banks is sure to affect one of the already few sponsorship sources in Grand Prix racing. More news as it happens.

Story written by Venancio Luis Nieto and Pablo Torralbo

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Cutting and pasting on a train. Not a good idea....

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Sorry about it. David makes miracles editing my poor English writing...


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IMHO, Spanish Savings Banks have more important things to think about right now.

Public funds should not be used for sports sponsorships, and Bankia is a public entity now... which is going to cost several thousands of millions of Euros to the people of Spain... my taxes are not for this.

Sorry for the Aspar team, but I hope they will have to look for another sponsor next year.


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Seeing the Spanish bank logos and hearing about their problems from the news I was really curious as to what their future is in MotoGP.

Thanks for article David.

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Although I wonder if presented with the explicit choice would the Spanish public prefer to sponsor a motorcycle racer or pay off some faceless financial organization or education expenses. I think motorcycle racer would win by a landslide.

We here in the US have a similar situation. We can't seem to get banks or very large corporations to sponsor bike racing but the US military reportedly spends upwards of $100M a year on race sponsorship, mostly on NASCAR, but they are also the title sponsor for the AMA. Besides the myriad moral objections that can be made since $40M of that is borrowed money should we really be spending money advertising American military using motorsports when they are about to cut troop numbers? I'm sure many NASCAR and AMA fans would wholeheartedly agree but I would not.

I say trash the alcohol and tobacco sponsorship ban and let the only people who were wiling to support motorsport continue to do so. Think of all the great retro paint schemes we would see!


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But I have always thought that Tobacco and Alcohol should be able to advertise where they want, as long as they are not explicitly advertising to children. I know people will argue where is the line drawn because if they sponsor motorsports and children look up to those racers blah blah blah. In all my friends the only ones who are now smokers are the ones whose parents smoked, just my experience though. People are going to drink and smoke whether racers are sponsored by the manufacturers or not. But I think the more pressing point is that sponsorship money is needed......BADLY! Do I think they will allow, but I think they should. We can't hold everyones hands and treat them like dummies, they can make their own decision

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... big tobacco and alcohol would not throw millions upon millions of dollars/euros/whatever into it.

Not saying the ban is necessarily valid, but I am saying these corporations do know what make sales and who their targets are.

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firms to invest so much in motorsports was that it was basically the only way for them to market their brand to a wide audience due to stricter laws that forbid TV advertisement in many countries.
It doesn't mean that it was more efficient that other methods, it was just one of the few remaining marketing tools at their disposal at that time.

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... is not a more efficient method of marketing for Big Tobacco since it was it's only legal outlet for a time is obvious enough.

My point is, if it's (marketing/advertising) is deemed inappropriate and perhaps harmful in just about every other possible advertising forum, why exactly should motorsport be any different? Just because we want to drive/ride around in circuitous circles as fast as humanly possible and are desperate for money to do it doesn't make it right.

There simply has to be a better way.

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Rothmans Honda and Lucky Strike Suzuki do sound appealing.

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Not to worry. The ECB rejected Spains Bankia recap plan according to the FT. Hence no public money for the rescue for now it seems.

Hmmm. GM and Crysler owe the US taxpayer billions for bailing them out and they advertize and spend money on racing if memory serves. Ah, not to worry, they'll find someway to screw the bondholders and pay off the unions, whether Spain or USA.

Odd how it's always public health/education/fire fighters getting cut but not the numerous pencil pushing employees of those institutions getting cut. OH! Those are voters and we can't cut them.

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So first off, the whole GM and Chrysler. Of the two, the only one that should generate any controversy is Chrysler. If you haven't been paying attention to the news, GM paid back their loan to the Federal Government at least a year ago, maybe more like two years.

The US Military sponsorship of racing is actually for sound reasons. First off, the money comes from the recruiting advertising budget. The reason being that a consulting firm conducted a study and found that many potential recruits from the race fans tended to be more mechanically inclined and thus better suited to some of the more technical career fields. Reaching your desired target audience is a better expenditure than random commercials during the superbowl. No joke. I worked with a few guys who went into recruiting and got the skinny on all that from them.

As for letting tobacco and alcohol return and spend their advertizing budgets in MotoGP, I don't see why not. It's not like either is targeting kids by doing so. Unless you count some of the riders who are in their mid teens. I think it's a move that's long since been needed. I honestly could care less about tobacco but alcohol is okay by me. I think the last booze sponsored bike I saw was Kocinski's Kremlyovskaya Vodka sponsored Ducati back in the 96 WSBK season.

Rossi had beer sponsorship at one time, as late as 2000 with Nastro Azzuro. I don't see why there isn't more attention paid to other beer companies. There are plenty and they spend $$$$$ every year in the US alone. Corona, Heineken, Budweiser, Coors..even Newcastle Brown. Also, I see plenty of tv ads for Capt Morgan, Bacardi and Jameson. If they can advertise on TV, why not on bikes?

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Surely alcohol is permitted, just look at Effenbert and the great paintjob. Corona were also around in the mid 00's while Aperol is a title/round sponsor which I think is similar to Martini (I may even have dabbled as I saw it in a bar and was curious- advertising works!)

At the end of the day they don't sponsor for fun and these brands have enormous marketing teams who know their stuff. Maybe it just isn't worth their time for the big American brands to advertise 4 times a year in Spain as well as the middle east and has been modeled not to provide the desired return.

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>>GM paid back their loan to the Federal Government at least a year ago, maybe more like two years.

Far from it. They shuffled loaned money and in the end the US taxpayer will be out tens of billions of dollars.

>>The US Military sponsorship of racing is actually for sound reasons. First off, the money comes from the recruiting advertising budget.

Oh, so since the borrowed money comes from the advertising budget its different? I'm not sure what point you are making here. The US gov't is borrowing money to advertise in motorsports. What category they list that money under is meaningless. They are reducing troop numbers yet spending large sums on private race teams. I'd rather re-institute the draft because that would put our worldwide military involvement under public scrutiny and be a real driver for reducing military spending.

>>The reason being that a consulting firm conducted a study and found that many potential recruits from the race fans tended to be more mechanically inclined and thus better suited to some of the more technical career fields.

The key here is 'potential' recruits. Not many become 'actual' recruits.

>>I worked with a few guys who went into recruiting and got the skinny on all that from them.

Not exactly a well researched position. Its like asking the fox how important a good fence around the hen house is.


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Considering that the satellite prototypes cost in the region of a few million, while major F1 sponsors give up upward of 30M per season.

Sponsoring a team in WSBK or MotoGP is a bargain in comparison and I'm surprised that more companies aren't doing it.

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hope that Dorna will become a victim when the Spanish banks house of cards collapses, thus allowing Moto GP to escape Dorna's pernicious grasp.

I an sure that some forward thinking organization would seize the opportunity to take over the mess and assist Moto GP with a promotional/marketing plan than is beneficial to BOTH parties
( and stay OUT of meddling with the technical rules............ ), thus elevating Moto GP to the status it deserves.

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I mean, apart from breaking opening up the lower classes and breaking the power Piaggio had to anoint riders there with special spec machinery, bringing in incredibly exciting racing with Moto2 (at less cost), breaking the manufacturers grip on MotoGP via the MSMA contract, then managing to quickly revert the decline in MotoGP grid numbers (against the existing manufacturers wishes), what have Dorna ever done for us!

Yeah, in hindsight Dorna were dumb to allow a few manufacturers to corner things up in the first place - but who saw that coming in the 90s? The 250 Piaggio situation wasn't even that much Dorna's fault, but a result of external market forces leading to other major producers abandoning interest in two-strokes. They have though, to their credit, started to fix things - and they're doing it in a sensible way, by experimenting first with the lower classes.

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Great article.

It's almost eerie reading it, felt like two of my favourite online destinations merged into one for a split second there...

Motomatters, meet Zerohedge. Zerohedge, meet Motomatters

Total votes: 233

If the banks are to continue as a business entity then they must advertise. In Spain motorcycle racing is much more popular than in the US and (I believe) somewhat more popular than in the rest of Europe. As such it looks to be a good location to support brand recognition.

If the government powers that be decide that the banks will be left to disintegrate, or have to be broken up, or some such then the sponsorship situation looks much bleaker.

Total votes: 233

If the banks are to continue as a business entity then they must advertise. In Spain motorcycle racing is much more popular than in the US and (I believe) somewhat more popular than in the rest of Europe. As such it looks to be a good location to support brand recognition.

If the government powers that be decide that the banks will be left to disintegrate, or have to be broken up, or some such then the sponsorship situation looks much bleaker.

Total votes: 228

Sorry to have to repeat this but GM did NOT payback its car bailout money. It took money from TARP to pay that bailout money back and still has yet to pay back the TARP money. Call it "bailout" money or call it "TARP" money, it has NOT been paid back and probably never will be paid back.

Just do a GOOGLE search for " Did GM pay back its loan" and read away. Such as this link: or this one:

Sorry for this post not being MOTOGP related directly. Just responded due to misinformation put out by a post above. I'll try not to do this again.

US stk mkt way down on EURO news this morning. Time to buy up good cheap USA/Canadian stks that have minor european exposure.

Total votes: 248

I think maybe that there is an advertising problem in MotoGP. Attracting sponsorship has to be packaged and presented in more professional and meaningful (to prospective companies) manner. Having each team try to attract sponsorship is like doing things piecemeal. Any advertising agency could package up a presentation that addresses the needs of international companies to attract those sponsorship dollars. Someone just has to reach out to one and put together a deal.

Should this come from the manufacturers, or from Dorna is a question open to debate. It has to be done and done soon before we as fans are suddenly presented with a season that can't happen due to a severe lack of sponsorship to fund a full season of racing. That could happen sooner than later should economies continue to free fall in Europe.

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The idea was to pool all rider sponsorship and pay out from that pool to each rider/team that could be on a weighed scale factored by points, races run and other criteria. Each rider/rep would negotiate his own sponsorship contracts and display all necessary signage but then gives 50% (?) of the total to the pool. At the end of the year this pool is paid out to all riders that participated that year.

The top riders would lose out on some income and the bottom riders would gain some. The argument to support this is that without a decent grid size the sport is not tenable. If the sport is not tenable then the top riders will have a much smaller salary in another series so 'give a little to keep a lot' can make good business sense.

Another option is to use the F1 approach. F1 pools the TV contracts and circuit signage income and gives a chunk directly to the teams. I think the teams split 45% of the profits generated by F1 every year. I know that Dorna does support some satellite and CRT efforts but I got the idea that it was more of a helping hand than a long term contractual payment agreement.


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Losses are recorded on the income statement a.k.a profit-loss statement. Losses are closed into to retained earnings on the balance sheet a.k.a statement of financial position.

In accounting, listing income as a balance sheet item is tantamount to identifying the left handlebar as the throttle. If the mistake were less fundamental, I wouldn't have run the risk of being pedant, but financial statement info could prove useful in the future.

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If the biggest risk facing your organisation is the financial collapse of the major sponsors and/or the bankers that support the competitors, what do you do?

Would you?

a. Do nothing and hope (not for those that wish to sleep at night)

b. Attempt to find new sponsors (unfortunately its the continuation of a global financial crises, think "global", name a bank that meets a real capital adequacy test?)

c. Mitigate your risk by introducing a "low cost" option, meaning the cost of entry drops signicantly, and you (we) still have your (our) race series.

"If you take the best text in economics by Mankinaw, he says intelligent people make decisions based on opportunity costs — in other words, it’s your alternatives that matter. That’s how we make all of our decisions." Charlie Munger Berkshire Hathaway.

Its obvious its c. and to those of you that have worked in finance, 'he who controls the purse strings is the boss'... CRT will be here while the European Crisis continues..

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Is it any wonder they're struggling when they were offering bank accounts where the interest rate was based on the number of Marquez wins. I bet they regretted that last season!

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I like their green livery, couldn't they change it to 'Bankruptia'?

Total votes: 225