Vauxhall accused of 'disgraceful behaviour' over phantom pitch

John Reynolds, a former Campaign, Marketing and Media Week journalist who now freelances for titles including The Guardian, casts his eye over the big stories in sports marketing.

Vauxhall’s decision to bring its Home Nations football sponsorship activities in-house and axe incumbent Carat has been dubbed “disgraceful behaviour”.

Carat's sponsorship division was hired by Vauxhall in 2011

The GM-owned brand has ditched Carat’s sport sponsorship arm after calling an agency review, as it looked to get its ducks in a row ahead of England competing in the Brazil 2014 World Cup.

The account for Vauxhall’s sponsorship of England and the other Home Nations football teams was eagerly sought after and carried much cache.

Sponsorship heavyweight IMG fought for the brief against Octagon and Carat.

Carat has worked on the account since 2011 and was responsible for the humorous LED advertising campaign during England’s washout game against Poland last year showcasing Vauxhall’s Cascada car with its roof that can close in just 19 seconds.

Vauxhall marketing director Peter Hope certainly thought he had backed a winner in Carat.

In 2011 Hope said Carat had “amply demonstrated their credentials as market leaders in the sporting sector”.

Now, Hope appears to have lost hope in Carat. Not only that, he has incurred the wrath of the competing agencies which presented Vauxhall with “a stack of ideas” and no doubt many man hours about how best to take the Vauxhall brand forward. Only for Hope to decide to take the account in-house.

As one sponsorship expert put it: “You may copyright your ideas, the problem is that you share your thinking with the client. At best, it shows Vauxhall not having a clear idea of what they want to achieve. At worse, it looks like they are grabbing ideas for themselves.”

Another simply labelled it “disgraceful behaviour”.

Undergoing a pitch for an account and then deciding to bring it in-house is highly unusual in sport sponsorship

It is thought Carat’s sponsorship unit had between five and ten people working on the key account.

Vauxhall, which renewed its sponsorship with the FA of the England football team this year for another four years, has been suffering from market-wide sales declines in Europe.

Vauxhall said the decision was to do with cost-efficiencies.

The PR around the Home Nations sponsorship will stay with Macesport and Vauxhall’s media agency will continue to be Carat.

Carat and IMG declined to comment. Octagon was unavailable for comment.

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