Analysis Sponsorship

VR46 loses WithU to RNF Yamaha – a cold and dry winter ahead?

Prior to the Emilia-Romagna GP, the team built from the ashes of Petronas SRT officially announced its title sponsor and bike. A telling silence is heard from Valentino Rossi’s VR46 garage.

Razlan Razali’s RNF Racing Team has signed with a sponsor of his previous team as the title partner of the new venture, which is running Yamaha M1s on a one-year deal with the Iwata factory.

WithU, a brand of Europe Energy Spa, is a electricity, gas, internet and mobile provider operating in Italy since 2019.

Controlled by CEO Matteo Ballarin, Europe Energy has been a supporter of Razali’s MotoGP prospects from the start, as seen in the prominent decals on the bikes’ fairing and clothing.

Coincidentally, the launch of the WithU brand coincided with the incredible d├ębut season of SRT with recently-crowned MotoGP champion Fabio Quartararo frequently finishing in the top 3 in an outdated Yamaha.

An increase of brand presence was then activated for the following seasons – including a main sponsor deal with Valentino Rossi’s team VR46 in 2020, adding a personal sponsorship with Quartararo and Morbidelli this year.

In May, VR46 announced its intention to join the MotoGP grid with Ducati machinery in 2021 in partnership with TANAL, who reportedly would’ve brought 90 million euros in funding alongside Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco.

Two problems then arised between the two teams:

Petronas withdrew from the SRT project which prompted Razali to open a new team – RNF Racing – and shutting down his Moto3 and Moto2 garages;

VR46’s deal with TANAL lost credibility after failing to deposit the promised money and Aramco disproving any contact with the team, leaving the Tavullan team without a stable balance.

Who to be with… with you?

WithU’s marketing strategy is changing from 2021 onwards. After turning over 624 million euros with a net debt of 46.3 million, its holding company decided that this would be the way to go.

From September 2020 to July 2021, Europe Energy consulted Azimut Direct to loan 9.5 million euros for marketing, communication and improving its technical infrastructure.

A source close to the situation told Decalspotters that Europe Energy’s MotoGP budget rounded 2 million euros for 2021.

Furthermore, the source reported the company was deciding between becoming title sponsor of either RNF or VR46, a decision that was still in discussion as late as the week prior to the Emilia-Romagna GP.

Although a more encouraging option in terms of visibility and brand awareness, aligning with Valentino Rossi’s namesake squad would have been ultimately more expensive as it runs in multiple categories aside from MotoGP.

RNF Racing, whilst a new team, has a 125cc World Champion in Andrea Dovizioso sharing the garage with newcomer Darryn Binder in a single category entry – a much more logical option taking in account WithU’s marketing budget.

Ultimately, the energy company signed with RNF Racing and isn’t expected to continue its association with VR46 and thus Matteo Ballarin’s partnership with Razlan Razali opens a new chapter.

More headaches for VR46

After the controversy with alleged Saudi investors and trademark infringements, VR46 finds itself in difficult times onwards to its MotoGP entrance.

Without a stable entity to be its main partner, the team can be unable to ride the late-spec Desmosedicis as initially planned. The supposed 90 million euros would relieve VR46 from this issue, but the briefcase never came.

A departing WithU leaves Sky Italia as the most likely title partner for the following seasons but its budget is not so exhilirating.

Decalspotters understands that Sky Italia is not expected to exceed 1 million euro in advertising for VR46, however, this could be overturned. Despite recording losses, MotoGP is one of the channel’s most watched sports in the country.

Sky Italia has been the title partner of VR46’s racing project since its inception in 2014, a successful partnership that has resulted in 2 Moto2 championship wins in 2018 and 2020.

If VR46 were to continue without Sky Italia, finding a new sponsor to fund up its teams would be excruciatingly difficult in time for the 2021 season.

Yamaha and Esponsorama have entered 2 of VR46’s teams next year in Moto2 and Moto3 respectively, with Bardahl expected to continue funding the junior teams in Italy and Spain.

A merchandising paradise being unable to secure a stable image in motorsport is not a story they would like to run. The operation is running full steam to get everything ready in time for Sepang.

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