Last week the news broke about the ending of the John Smith's sponsorship of the annual Aintree Grand National and unsurprisingly it came as a shock to many in light of the fact that they've had such a successful partnership since 2005.
Whether the reason to withdraw was based on financial or commercial reasons or more to do with the recent negativity surrounding the steeple chase resulting form the death of two horses in the 2012 renewal, nobody has yet confirmed although one suspects that it's more likely a combination of all of those factors and so the Aintree management must now get in gear and get the ball rolling on the next potential sponsor for the 2014 Grand National.
Aintree supremo John Baker insists the Grand National is still a hugely attractive sponsorship saying “The Grand National is the one race that transcends the sport. Interest is phenomenal worldwide with 500 million watching it, including 11 million in this country.
“As a commercial opportunity, it still stands tall.”
And it's certainly not the first time that the sponsorship has changed hands. The first official sponsorship of the Grand National was in 1958 when the Irish Hospital Sweepstakes contributed £5,000 towards the prize money. In 1961 and 1962 additional funds came from Schweppes Limited and by 1975 Ladbrokes had to step in to save the National.
More recently from 1984 to 1991 Seagram, the Canadian distiller, sponsored the Grand National and following that, Martell, then a Seagram subsidiary, took over sponsorship of the Aintree meeting for an initial seven years from 1992, in a £4 million deal, but ultimately they stayed until 2004.
2005 saw the beginning of the John Smith's deal which, of course as we now all know, will end in 2013.
So who will take the reins in 2014? I suspect that as none of the bookies have started offering odds on it that nobody knows yet but drinks companies have always faired well so could it be the Guinness Grand National? Or will a bookmaker jump at the opportunity so we have the Paddy Power Grand National?
If odds become available you'll find them here!
Photo Credit | Meteorshoweryn