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Nico Rosberg: F1 champion ready to rev up sponsor deals

Nico Rosberg celebrates Image copyright Getty Images

German driver Nico Rosberg has climbed the podium to receive a first Formula 1 world championship, and his earnings are about to get a leg-up too.

As well as pocketing sizeable bonuses from his F1 team Mercedes, he is also poised to take advantage on the sponsor and endorsements front.

"Winning the world championship will help catapult him into a new earnings bracket," says sports sponsorship expert Nigel Currie.

"When you win the world championship your commercial bargaining power soars compared with being just another driver."

So far the 31-year-old Rosberg has been low-key, not only when it comes to sponsorship deals, but as a potential sporting "celebrity".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rosberg triumphed in nine races this year

In fact, so single-minded has he been in securing that elusive maiden title (he has been runner-up for the past two years), that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said recently "there is nothing to write about him".

From a racing perspective it has been a rollercoaster season, with Rosberg strictly focusing on taking one race at a time, an approach which is now set to pay financial, as well as sporting, dividends.

Big pay

This summer Rosberg was listed 98th in Forbes' index of the world's 100 richest sports people, with estimated total annual earnings of $21m (£14.5m at June exchange rates).

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Japanese Grand Prix is one of a number won by Rosberg during the season

But only $1m of those earnings came from endorsements, compared with the $4m his Mercedes teammate and fierce rival Lewis Hamilton made from his sponsorship deals.

Mr Currie says that like boxing, the majority of earnings for an F1 driver - even for a multiple champion like Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso - "come at the sporting arena".

"Pay for the top drivers is very good if you perform and win, and Rosberg is one of the highest paid drivers," he says.

In fact Rosberg signed a new two-year deal with Mercedes this summer, worth a reported £18m a year.

Image copyright Twitter @Nico_Rosberg
Image caption Rosberg tweeted a video of him signing his new contract in July

The German will be in line for bonuses for his title win, but it is the sponsorship side of things that offers the most growth potential, in an area where he has not been overly active.

One rare partnership deal that Rosberg did have, from 2010 to 2015, was with designer watch and jewellery brand Thomas Sabo, but the driver's Monaco-based management team says this association is no longer active.

Breakthrough title

According to his managers, Rosberg has chosen so far to focus on some extra sponsorship participation with Mercedes' own list of brand partners.

This collection of 23 companies includes the likes of Puma, Bose, Hugo Boss, Tata Communications, Pirelli, Epson and UBS.

Image copyright Tumi
Image caption Rosberg is a partner of high-end luggage firm Tumi

Tumi, a US manufacturer of luxury travel accessories, and which has its name on the Mercedes team cars and its members' race suits, has signed Rosberg as one of two ambassadors for the brand.

"What F1 teams do with the drivers, until they become so dominant that they can write their own cheques and sign their own deals, is that they tie them into the team sponsors," says Mr Currie.

"That is why a Formula 1 championship is so important. It is like winning one of the four golf majors, or a Grand Slam tournament in tennis. You then have that on your CV, and can start negotiating your terms."

And the more success you have, the more you can dictate your terms and do your own deals, he says.

"It is no coincidence that those F1 drivers that are well-rewarded in terms of endorsements are also ones who are multiple F1 champions."


Who is Nico Rosberg?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rosberg with wife Vivian Sibold
  • Born on 27 June 1985 in Wiesbaden, Germany, and raised in Monaco
  • Son of Finnish former F1 world champion Keke Rosberg
  • Married to Vivian Sibold, with one daughter
  • Has 1.6m followers on Twitter and 2.3m likes on Facebook
  • Interests include triathlon, football, chess, photography, backgammon

'Well-managed'

Ian Phillips is a former director of the Jordan, Spyker and Force India F1 teams. He says Rosberg's low commercial profile to date is not accidental.

"He is very handsomely paid by Mercedes, and if you take on extra commercial activities it takes up your precious time," says Mr Phillips. "I am a firm believer that you are better to concentrate on your main job, in what is a very short career.

"If you are successful and win championships, then the best times for big commercial earnings are actually for when you stop driving," says Mr Phillips, who is now a motorsport management consultant.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rosberg's father Keke won the 1982 F1 world championship

"I know that is not the approach all drivers take, but Rosberg is well-managed, and this will have been a deliberate approach, one which I think has been eminently sensible."

Mr Phillips says that ironically Rosberg's father Keke, F1 world champion in 1982, was "one of the first commercial individuals" in the sport.

'Aspirational' deals

Now Rosberg Jr has the potential to emulate his father and strike some major deals.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rosberg can now focus on a handful of top sponsor deals

Mr Currie says: "He will have been waiting for getting the right deals until after winning the championship. Everything else will have been on hold.

"But now he and his management will be exploring their options. The great thing for world champions in F1 is that they can focus on the very high-end luxury market.

"Things such as the most expensive watches in the world, potentially his own fashion range, male fragrances. Car deals can also be done, if they are done correctly.

"He won't be doing your standard, everyday, stuff. It will be aspirational, like F1. I think he will be poised now to make two or three high-end, really big deals."