Mid way through the 2009 season, it was announced that Jason Crump would be sponsored by Red Bull. On the surface, this sounded like major news for the sport, but it soon became clear that the deal was limited to a Red Bull crash helmet, cap and the obligatory drinks bottle. Admittedly for many years Red Bull have sponsored their "athletes" with a corporate crash helmet, but it is was disappointing that the deal wasn't taken further with Crump racing in the full Red Bull corporate livery. This would have given the sport a real injection of credibility, with the prospect of attracting other serious corporate companies to speedway.
Crumps friendship with Red Bull F1 racer Mark Webber has been well documented, and could help raise the profile of speedway around the world. During the press conference after Webbers victory at the Brazilian GP, he paid tribute to Crump for winning the Speedway World Championship after overcoming a serious injury.
At the same time, the organisers of the Speedway Grand Prix have to put their house in order, to make this sort of deal possible. At the British Speedway Grand Prix at Cardiff, the event sponsor was the rival "Rockstar" energy drink. This in itself is not a problem as long as the branding is on the air fence, podium, infield etc. But in speedway the organisers insist that the event sponsor has their branding on the front of all the bikes (and potentially on the riders race jacket bibs.) So we had the ridiculous scenario of the Red Bull sponsored Crump, and the "Monster" sponsored Greg Hancock being forced to carry the branding of a rival company on their bikes! This doesn't happen in other events any more because it is a sure-fire way to scupper any potential sponsorship deal...
As a sport, we can't really complain about the lack of major sponsorship, if we insist on crazy regulations that discourage potential backers.
Original Photo: Michal Szmyd
Photoshop Rendering: Dave Curtis
Image published in the Speedway Star