Transport for London (TfL) has signed a new seven year sponsorship deal with Santander, worth £7.25m per year.
Current sponsor Barclays announced in December 2013 that it would not renew its deal, leaving TfL to look for a new partner. The new sponsorship deal, worth a total of £43.75m, will see the cycle hire scheme's 11,500 turquoise bikes and docking stations painted red and renamed Santander Cycles. Mayor Boris Johnson said:
“As everyone knows, London buses, phone kiosks and post boxes are red. In Santander Cycles, we have a new red icon symbolising the Capital to Londoners, and the world. Santander’s marketing expertise will help us take the Cycle Hire scheme to a new level, and I am thrilled to welcome them.
“With my Cycling Vision about to bear fruit in new Superhighways, Quietway cycle routes and better junctions, there will be more opportunities than ever for Santander Cycles. It couldn’t be a better time to get involved in cycling.”
The Santander deal is just £2m more than the £5m Barclays put in — and many believed that was too one-sided — so will £7.25m be considered to be too cheap? While it's likely that City Hall and TfL have learned some lessons from the furore surrounding the Barclays sponsorship, their choices may have been somewhat thin on the ground — both the New Year's Eve fireworks and free tube travel failed to attract sponsors.
Like its predecessor, Santander has also came in for criticism over its suitability as a sponsor. A Greenpeace investigation exposed the bank's loans to April, a paper company accused of damaging rainforests in Indonesia and the bank has since made the timely decision to withdraw its funding.
More importantly, what will Londoners get out of it? London Assembly Labour spokesperson for transport Val Shawcross said a sponsor should take "an active role in promoting and championing cycling in London", and Santander's money is intended for new initiatives and growth. TfL has said we'll more bikes on the street, extra docking points and a new Santander Cycles app. Green Party AM Darren Johnson said:
“The extra money is good news for cycling in London, although there are genuine concerns over some of Santander's international activities and its suitability as a sponsor. The Mayor should be using the extra money to review the whole way that cycle hire works. There are still complaints about over-charging and the lack of compatibility with Oyster or waive and pay. The biggest complaint is over cycle hire missing out large chunks of inner London. The Mayor needs to look at expanding the scheme further northwards and to address the big gap in coverage south of the river."