John Smith’s has pulled out of sponsoring the Grand National after nine years, but the brewery maintains the decision is not linked to the negative publicity that has plagued the race for two years.
Aintree is searching for a new sponsor for the famous race from 2014 as the beer brand, owned by Heineken, will not be renewing its contract, which ends after next year’s National (4-6 April 2013).
More than 154,000 people attended this year’s Grand National meeting, but it was marred by the deaths of two horses, including Gold Cup winner Synchronised.
Heineken said it was a “difficult” decision but “now was the right time to move on”.
“Clearly we have to consider every element when we review a sponsorship.
“We were deeply saddened by the horse fatalities in 2011 and 2012, but the decision was taken primarily for commercial reasons,” said David Jones of Heineken.
“We know that the safety and welfare of horses and riders in the Grand National is the number one priority at Aintree.
“We will continue to support them in their efforts to make the course as safe as possible in 2013 and beyond.
“We hope to reach a new commercial agreement that allows John Smith’s to maintain its association with the Grand National outside the headline sponsorship,” he added.
Aintree said it was “indebted” to John Smith’s, but declined to comment further.
But Aintree chairman Lord Daresbury told The Times: “The image of the race has patently been a consideration, though I’m sure not the overriding one.”
John Smith’s will continue to sponsor the John Smith’s Cup at York and Northumberland Plate at Newcastle.
This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (29 November 2012)