Mercedes and Kingspan end sponsorship deal following Grenfell controversy

2021 F1 season

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Mercedes has announced it and Kingspan have mutually agreed to end their sponsorship agreement which attracted controversy when it was announced one week ago.

“Both parties have subsequently concluded that it is not appropriate for the partnership to move forward at the current point in time, notwithstanding its intended positive impact, and we have therefore agreed that it will be discontinued with immediate effect,” said the team in a statement.

The deal was announced one week ago and Kingspan’s logos appeared on the nose of the W12s throughout the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend. However it prompted criticism over Kingspan’s connection to the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people lost their lives. An inquiry over the disaster is ongoing.

Grenfell United, a group which represents the bereaved and surviving families of the tower, criticised the deal as “truly shocking” when it was announced. After they received an apology from Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, the UK government added to the pressure on the F1 team to sever its ties to the company, indicating it could revise areas of sponsorship law.

Kingspan was to chair a Sustainability Working Group within the team to reduce carbon emissions from the team’s future base. In their statement confirming the termination of the deal, Kingspan revealed they were originally approached by Mercedes to lead the body.

The building materials company stated it did not supply or recommend its products which were used on the tower. It condemned the “wholly unacceptable historical conduct and emails” found during the inquiry which involved “a small group of employees at our Kingspan Insulation UK business” which “in no way reflects Kingspan’s culture or values”.

Grenfell United immediately welcomed the termination of the deal. “We are pleased to hear this morning’s news that Mercedes have terminated their sponsorship deal with Kingspan with immediate effect,” the group said in a statement.

“We met with Toto Wolff and provided him and his team with the facts of Kingspan’s involvement in Grenfell, and Mercedes have done the right thing by dissociating themselves from Kingspan. This hopefully sends a clear message that people must be put before profit.

“Most importantly, we would like to thank every single one of you that supported us and continued to push our message out publicly. It clearly shows that things can be achieved through a unified effort.

“We hope this sets a precedent and others will rethink their relationships with the likes of Arconic, Celotex and Rydon of which the Grenfell Inquiry has uncovered crippling evidence. With justice still so far away, it’s these small steps that encourage us to keep fighting.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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27 comments on “Mercedes and Kingspan end sponsorship deal following Grenfell controversy”

  1. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
    8th December 2021, 11:47

    Glad they cleared this up but I’m amazed they got into this pickle in the first place. If F1 teams were more ethnically diverse this idiotic idea would never have got off the ground.

    1. It would be great if it led Kingspan to understand that they really need to get in contact with Grenfell United to adress that before they can play “positive image” @slightlycrusty

  2. Whilst they are at it Kingspan might want to consider changing that logo.
    I know it supposed to be a pouncing lion but it doesn’t take much imagination to see it as someone running and screaming whilst on fire!

    1. Much squinting

      I can see Hades from Disneys Hercules film…

  3. Restores some faith in humanity in a era where powerful figures & corporates often just the tide the initial tide of outrage & storm through like bulls & wait for things to die down with some pity statements, hats off to Toto & Lewis

  4. I love how “the governement added pressure”, yet it was a multitute of government failiings that contributed to the disaster in the first place…

    1. UK Government: De-regulate -> disaster occurs due to de-regulation -> small token rule change that doesn’t solve the problem -> Take credit for “forcing through change”
      … and repeat

    2. @joeypropane

      Haha, these were exactly my thoughts!

  5. Not a very nice company to work for, according to a couple of people I know that have since left.

  6. A strange affair.

    Sponsorship deals are not a casual undertaking for businesses of this size. Significant work, due diligence and disclosure are required from either side. It would be amazing if MB did not know of Kingspan’s involvement in Grenfell. MB must have assessed the reputational risk and taken the money. Someone should ask Toto what MB knew and why they went forward.

    Equally surprising is LH. He signed up to promote MB and their sponsors. Yet he also has a brand with values and they cannot conflict with MB. Given he signed a contract this year it is strange that there is not some form of oversight in his contract to avoid conflict and reputational damage to his brand. Someone should ask LH if is so concerned why it is not part of his contract.

    1. I can’t imagine a clause like that would ever be accepted by a team in F1, no matter who the driver.

      1. Consider that MB has many sponsors who will have conditions (not sponsoring competitors & reputational). LH’s sponsors which he brought to the team and new ones will also have the same conditions.

        This is why Toto acted quickly, so MB’s other sponsors were not being associated with Kingspan & Grenfell.

        So how is LH protecting his brand and sponsors. I don’t think his “nothing to do with me” would satisfy a sponsor.

        1. I imagine the contracts between teams and sponsors will have clauses re: drivers and the timelines of contracts will closely match those of their driver. A sponsor may have some say (in terms of money) in which driver a team signs but I don’t suppose a driver will have much power over which sponsors a team signs.

          1. Just reconsidering my thoughts.

            I recall Toto talking about bringing driver salaries into the budget cap and stating (from memory) it would be complicated because of sponsorship and image rights. So perhaps, MB pays LH for these as part of the salary and provides control. Still not sure how that would work for sponsorship LH has outside of F1.

    2. Merc as a brand is infinitely larger and reaching than Hams relatively small F1 fanbase.

    3. Why do you hold Lewis to this impossibly high standard? You really think his contract should have clauses that govern the team’s commercial decisions? And, no – don’t mention his personal brand – this particular company and the Grenfell saga has nothing to do with that at all.

      1. I didnt quite read it as a critique of Hamilton himself. It was a question of how Hamilton’s management team deals with such situations as Hamilton is a global brand.

        It would be interesting to understand how this works, for all drivers who have global brand presence. Lets say you have a driver, say Vettel, cultivated an anti war message which has become synonymous with his personal brand, and then Aston Martin goes and signs a deal with Raytheon…it would look a bit odd to say the least.

        I think the point here is more in line with understand how driver contracts relate to the larger sponsorship picture of the team.

        While not diminishing the victims of Grenfell, this whole Kingspan thing is a bit of a storm in a teacup. Perhaps it was a poor judgement, but if you start digging, you could find dirt (some more than others) on every single sponsor on the grid.

    4. Wondered how long it would take for someone to try and pin this on LH
      No one takes issue with Le Clerc or Sainz over Ferrari’s sponsors do they.

  7. Rank Hypocrisy
    8th December 2021, 13:48

    Someone seems really keen to question LH about this. Makes me wonder How heavily questioned have drivers under tobacco sponsorship, or more latterly, closet tobacco sponsorship (e.g. ‘mission not about fags guv honest’) about the millions of deaths that smoking has caused?
    Just sayin….

  8. Is the UK government’s goal to bankrupt Kingspan by publicly vilifying any organisation that may do or is doing business with Kingspan?

    1. No, only to deflect the blame on to such people as a racing driver; whilst they used the same company to supply materials to build a school in the shadow of Grenfell after the fire.
      And why not? Clearly from past comments on this site and others it did the trick.

  9. Can the governments step in to do something about the Vuse/McLaren deal now?

  10. Ok so i am not very well informed but isn’t this a bit like blaming the manufacturer of a household heater for your funicular burning down?

    oh, wait

  11. The power of social media at work.

  12. Someone at Mercedes sponsorships staff is getting booted over this one. They said they did their due diligence but clearly, they didn’t even scratch the surface of what they needed to be aware of if they turned around on the deal so quickly.

  13. After such a fiery weekend it is no surprise.

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