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Renault set to reignite French Rugby Federation sponsorship

(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

French car manufacturer Renault has co-signed of a letter of intent with the French Rugby Federation (FFR) to return as a major sponsor of French rugby.

Renault was the FFR’s official car from 2008 to 2012 and is expected to return to the fold after this year’s Six Nations tournament.

The sponsorship contract is scheduled for completion before March 31, 2020, the governing body stated in a recent management committee review.

Renault will take over from the French subsidiary of German carmaker BMW, which terminated its contract with the FFR more than one year in advance of its June 2019 expiry date.

In public, BMW and the FFR agreed to the early termination for “strategic reasons”. BMW wanted to “build on interactive, experiential and digital formats to meet the increasingly diversified expectations of its customers”, while the FFR said it favoured partners who wish to continue their commitment to 2023 and beyond.

However, French media reported that disagreements between the carmaker and the federation over benefits received by the national team’s main shirt sponsor, Altrad, may also have contributed to the split.

Not only did BMW, along with major partners Société Générale, GMF and Orange, express concerns that Altrad had received preferential treatment, but BMW was thought to be angered when FFR president Bernard Laporte loaned his BMW car to a third party, which the sponsorship contract forbids.

It is thought that BMW initially paid about €4m ($4.4m) per year to wrest the deal from Renault in a four-year agreement, from 2013 to 2016.  BMW’s renewal deal ran from 2017 to 2020.

Renault was reported to be paying about €3m per year before BMW took over. The new contract will almost certainly cover the 2023 Rugby World Cup, given the federation has called for new deals to cover the period.

The FFR sponsors received significant broadcast exposure yesterday afternoon as France kicked off their 2020 Six Nations campaign with a 24-17 win over England.

The match was watched by an average of 5.7 million viewers on French public broadcaster France Télévisions. The audience on the France 2 channel was equal to a 39-per-cent market share. The audience marked an uplift of 530,000 viewers on the broadcaster’s audience for France’s 2019 opener against Wales.

Earlier in the day, France 2 pulled in an average of 1.9 million viewers (a 13.9-per-cent share) for the France-England clash in the Women’s Six Nations.