by Laila Carvallo
Few minutes after the unveiling of the worst-kept-secret and after the announcement of Marc Márquez’s incorporation in Gresini, there have been multiple names thrown in the hat who could accompany him in the team. Repsol? Red Bull? Estrella Galicia? Who will actually join this project?
There are some details that need to be ironed out regarding the brands that partner the Márquez brothers and their incorporation at Gresini. Prior to the Misano weekend, voices in the paddock have mentioned a couple of them who were “safe bets” to be seen on Gresini’s bike wrap next year.
Beginning with Red Bull, the mega marketing company masquerading as an energy drink brand have been supporters of the Cervera-born riders since the early years of their world championship career, essentially becoming the faces of its Spanish subsidiary as they became champions in the mid 2010s.
Red Bull value the brothers a lot to the point that when Marc and Alex exited from the management of Emilio Alzamora last year, the company entrusted the services of its head of motorsport marketing, Jaime Martinez Recasens, to become their new manager and advisor.
Jaime left Red Bull at the end of 2022 to create a new company, Vertical Management, alongside the Márquez brothers as shareholders. Marc and Alex are still linked to Red Bull, perhaps for the long run, but this does not guarantee a sponsorship placement in the team from Faenza.
To understand this, we have to analyse the moves that the Austrian company have done in the past years in their MotoGP marketing strategy. This is not a company that shows its iconic ramping bull under the sun imagery anywhere, at least not anymore.
Red Bull has been close to manufacturers, joining HRC in 2015 and revitalising their partnership with KTM in 2016. It’s not a coincidence – these are serious, big-time projects that Red Bull need to generate the brand awareness they seek for.
However, it is also true that they have also helped LCR during the Alex Márquez years, but never on a sponsorship capacity. It was only a hospitality deal, meaning you would be able to drink Red Bull cans on Lucio’s motorhome. Nothing more.
The Austrians already benefit from having two of their riders on the Gresini saddle, with their iconic branding already being shown on the helmets of the Márquezes.
With the same budget and same strategy being approved and tested, this situation can be discarded.
Alongside the bulls, the Spanish oil giant Repsol has been a close partner of both Marc and Alex, from the junior days. Across their journey in the world championships, Repsol has always been a prominent figure on their bikes and leather suits.
Alex comes with an exception, as he was separated from Repsol after his dismissal at HRC during 2020’s pre-season, having represented Castrol in LCR and now Federal Oil in Gresini.
The fact of the matter is that Repsol has an active contract with Honda, of which they decided to follow through and not follow the example made by Marc, that is, of breaking contracts.
Their partnership with the Japanese house is beneficial for them as we reach closer to 2027, when MotoGP will run 100% non-fossil fuel, which Repsol is developing with Honda. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible to do with a customer team like Gresini.
Repsol are solely focused on working with manufacturers, just as mentioned before with Red Bull, which can be evidenced in the past years their withdrawal of sponsoring junior teams like Avintia and Monlù/MarcVDS.
If you aren’t paying attention, there’s another impasse, which is one of Gresini’s long-standing sponsors in the name of Federal Oil, an Indonesian subsidiary of ExxonMobil. Federal Oil have a long deal that seems unbreakable, passing through from Fausto’s leadership to Nadia’s.
It’s important to note that ExxonMobil is on the top 15 ranking of oil and gas companies in the world, while Repsol is down on 22nd position – this is to explain the grandiosity of the American group and how it’s possible for them to extend an extra help to its subsidiary Federal Oil.
The hypothesis of Repsol joining Gresini would stop here, but then the signs already show that it’s not happening.
One of Spain’s most popular beer brands, Estrella Galicia joined the MotoGP paddock in 2012 supporting Alzamora’s effort in Moto2 which culminated in Marc’s second world championship win. Since then, Hijos de Rivera, its parent company, would start investing heavily in motorsport.
Passing through the ladder with MarcVDS and many other Spanish riders in the 2010s, Estrella Galícia became a close supporter of the Márquez brothers, even joining HRC at the same time as Marc in 2013 and remaining a highlighted figure to this day.
Their dedication to supporting Spanish riders is uncontested, as after Alex’s exit from Repsol Honda to LCR in 2021, Estrella Galicia supported him and Cecchinello’s team. The brand would stay at LCR with the short-term arrival of Alex Rins, but this deal is expected to end as Zarco enters the Monegasque garage for next year.
This year has shown a key moment for Hijos de Rivera’s marketing strategy, as they have also signed sponsorship deals with Gresini, RNF and the MotoGP sport itself. The budget, however, is tightening.
On the four-wheel side, Estrella Galicia is leaving Scuderia Ferrari to be replaced by Asahi Europe, leaving behind one of the most important figures of their advertising plan, Carlos Sainz.
A contract extension with Gresini is to be expected from Estrella Galicia, now that they have both Márquez brothers at the helm, and Gresini’s sky-blue palette matching with the identity of the non-alcoholic brand.
Whether they expand their presence in the team or not is to depend on their F1 plans, which sounds almost impossible at this stage.
ALLIANZ? VERTICAL? WHO ELSE?
Over the past few weeks, Spanish media has introduced other names to the basket, some of which are also close to the brothers and one is the company they own.Allianz was one of those names, for example, which left MotoGP as a MotoE partner before the pandemic and wouldn’t be in a position to invest on a short-term project like this one in such a rush.
Another name that was referenced was Vertical, Marc and Alex’s management company, in the case that they buy Gresini out from Nadia Padovani and her family. It wouldn’t make sense for a company like this to be sponsoring a team if it is to be taken seriously, unless it wants to end up like the old Esponsorama.
In reality, what would make the most sense as this is looking to be a 1-year project for Marc, he will align himself with the Indonesian and Malaysian sponsors that Gresini host and then return to his close friends, perhaps on another team or, if it’s a serious effort, after the Gresini buy-out. Don’t expect much to happen, however.