Movistar is to sponsor Yamaha's MotoGP effort. At the presentation of Movistar's broadcast plans for the Grand Prix series in Spain last week, Luis Belo, Content Director for the Spanish telecommunications giant's digital TV channel Movistar TV, let slip that the company would also be backing the Yamaha Factory team in MotoGP, Spanish magazine Solomoto is reporting. The announcement confirms rumors of a deal between Movistar and Yamaha which have been doing the rounds since December. Yamaha have yet to officially confirm the deal, but that is only a matter of time.
The deal mirrors the situation in Italy, where new pay-per-view broadcaster Sky is backing the Moto3 team run in conjunction with Valentino Rossi's VR46 merchandising brand, fielding Romano Fenati and Francesco 'Pecco' Bagnaia. To help promote the pay-per-view channels which MotoGP is being broadcast on in Spain and Italy, Movistar and Sky are backing major teams in the championship. This is important for the two channels, as some of the races are also being broadcast on free-to-air channels in both Spain and Italy, in some cases on a tape delay basis. Having visible exposure on the bikes helps reinforce the message to audiences.
The pay-per-view TV contracts in MotoGP's biggest markets have seen losers as well as winners and losers. In Italy, the move from Mediaset to Sky has seen Italian teams struggle to raise sponsorship, especially in Moto2 and Moto3. Similarly, in Spain, a number of major teams have had phone calls from their backers after the pay-per-view deal with Movistar was announced. Long-running sponsorship deals were penned on the basis of all three MotoGP classes being broadcast free-to-air. Once it became apparent that Telecinco was unwilling to pay the 20+ million euros per year for the broadcast rights, and Movistar stepped in to cover the shortfall, using MotoGP as a tool to expand their share of the TV, internet and telephony market, sponsors in Moto2 and Moto3 especially have reduced their funding of the teams.
The return of Movistar means the return of a long-standing sponsor in the Grand Prix paddock. Movistar, and its parent company Telefonica, have long been involved in Grand Prix racing at all levels, including backing a support series and teams in the Spanish championship that went on to produce some of the top riders currently in the sport, as well as retired greats, including Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner, Daijiro Katoh, Sete Gibernau, Marco Melandri, Julian Simon, Kenny Roberts Jr, Chaz Davies, Leon Camier and many more. Telefonica withdrew from the paddock in 2006, after losing Dani Pedrosa to Repsol. Telefonica had backed Pedrosa throughout his entire career, and had wanted to continue in MotoGP, but existing contracts with Repsol meant Honda had to choose between the two, electing instead to maintain the long-standing relationship with oil giant Repsol instead.