Just a month after Veolia announced its departure from the yachting scene, one of ocean racing’s most visible and successful sponsors of the last decade called it quits today. Groupama CEO Thierry Martel announced that the big French insurance company would pull out of both sailing and football (Gpama sponsor both Lyon’s and Marseilles’ popular soccer teams) when their current contracts expire. The cutbacks are part of a 400 million dollar overhead reduction necessitated by the huge losses suffered in a brutal 2011 that saw Groupama post a nearly 2 billion Euro loss.
“We will continue until the end of the race in July,” said Comms Director Sylvain Burel, “but the future is uncertain.” Even in French, it sounds like the financially troubled insurer is already trying to back out of the commitment to a second VOR campaign so widely reported when Cammas joined entered the 2011-12 race.
We reached out to Groupama Racing’s comms team, who sent us the following statement:
“Groupama hasn’t yet made any decision about the next Volvo Ocean Race. They will wait for information on the rules and the costs before making any decisions. Franck’s partnership with Groupama lasts until 2015, and he certainly doesn’t want to see an end to the fruitful collaboration they have enjoyed since 1998.”
We don’t want to see it end either – from Cammas and Groupama’s Class-killing dominance of the ORMA 60 fleet, to his multiple victories in the TJV and Route Du Rhum, to the ultimate challenge and conquering of the Jules Verne Trophy, to their current scrap (and leg victory) in the Volvo Ocean Race, Groupama’s racing boats and crews have imprinted themselves on the maritime world’s consciousness like few others.
But with two major French multinationals walking away from sailing in just a few weeks, and a European economy that France may only now be starting to really feel, is the writing on the wall for the rest of the big French sponsors?
What do you think?