Honda drops its sponsorship of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix, leaving event organizers rushing to find a new backer just five months before the event.
“To say we’re surprised is an understatement,” race president Tim Ramsberger told reporter Danielle Paquette of the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s a tough thing to experience, but I don’t think it’ll damper the race. It won’t affect us going forward.”
Honda, the main sponsor of the three-day event, had pulled its support last week without explanation after nine years. In March, the Grand Prix will celebrate its tenth anniversary as one of the biggest promotional tools for the city.
No one can say why Honda backed out of the event on such short notice.
Finding a new sponsor will be a challenge, since creating marketing items will need to happen soon, in order to be ready for the race.
Several “interested parties” are being courted as potential sponsors, Ramsberger said. Naming rights can be worth up to $10 million in exposure from the ABC broadcast alone, he added.
Mayor Bill Foster remains optimistic about the race, which is a boon for the city, filling restaurants and hotels.
“Sponsors come and go,” Foster told the Times. “No one’s married to Honda. We’re married to the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.”