Vodafone and EE in spat over British Grand Prix 4G promotion

Vodafone and EE became embroiled in a war of words at the British Grand Prix over the weekend, after fellow mobile operator EE demanded Vodafone remove what it claims was an ad promoting "Ultrafast 4G" from the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes cars.

Vodafone: denied the promotion of Ultrafast 4G broke sponsorship rules
Vodafone: denied the promotion of Ultrafast 4G broke sponsorship rules

According to a Vodafone spokesman, the company was contacted on Friday 28 June by Steven Day, EE's chief of brand and communications, who demanded that the company "garage" McLaren’s Formula One drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez and remove the "Ultrafast 4G" branding.

The spokesman said: "This is sponsorship, not advertising. We’re using the car to build further awareness of our forthcoming Ultrafast 4G service. It’s a ‘static promotion’, albeit on a car that can travel at over 200 mph.

"Consumers know Vodafone’s Ultrafast 4G is coming. We’ve said very publicly it will be here by the late summer. Even if someone seeing the car wasn’t aware of that, there is no ‘call to action’ on it."

The fraught race was won by Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, after a series of drivers were forced to pull out due to blowouts of their Pirelli-made tyres.

An EE spokeswoman responded with the following comment: "Far from demanding Jenson get garaged, we're right behind him for tomorrow’s race.

"We simply asked why advertise a product that you don't have? When it comes to 4G mobile networks, Vodafone UK isn't even on the grid."

Separately, Vodafone has today (1 July) revealed a partnership with Sainsbury’s to launch a new service, Mobile by Sainsbury’s. The 50-50 joint venture will launch later this summer.