New deal signed between two Norfolk business ‘giants’ – Lotus cars and Norwich City
Lotus and Norwich City Football Club revealed today they have sealed a three-year deal together – aided by TV sports presenter Jake Humphrey.
The new collaboration sees the Hethel-based sports car manufacturer sponsoring the club's new training centre and academy with the new-look Lotus logo on the first team's 'walk-out' jackets as well as on all academy shirts from the under-23s to the under-nines. Signage has also gone up at Colney revealing the newly-named Lotus Training Centre with the tagline 'Powering Norwich City Football Club' and there will be on pitch-side branding at the Carrow Road stadium.
But the deal - part of 'tens of millions' being invested in Lotus by its Chinese owners Geely - apparently came about thanks to an introduction made by none other than TV sports pundit and Norfolk ambassador, Jake Humphrey.
Simon Clare, who took over as executive director of global marketing for Lotus six months ago, told this newspaper at a photocall at the training centre: "Jake and I both had links with Sunseeker (a luxury yacht company) and when he knew I was coming to Lotus, he rang me and told me how he loved Norfolk, and he was the one who introduced me to Ben (Ben Kensell, chief operating officer) at Norwich City.
"Jake can't take all the credit but he certainly made the introduction."
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The new partnership couldn't come at a better time for both businesses. The announcement comes on the eve of the Canaries' first game of the 2019-20 Premier League season against Liverpool at Anfield. Meanwhile, Lotus is embarking on a major global transformation, growing its local workforce by 25% over the past year to 1200 people. Last month it unveiled the world's first fully electric British hypercar and most powerful production car, the Evija, which is designed, engineered and produced in Hethel.
"The key to the partnership was the new investment in Lotus," said Mr Clare. "It's fair to say we've gone through some difficult years and Lotus came off the radar a little bit but in July we unveiled our new hypercar with a global reach, but built in Norfolk.
"We are both similar brands in a way, both with our roots in Norfolk. Lotus and Norwich City Football Club share core values; commitment, passion, focus, hard work, a winning mindset - and the success that flows from them.
"Lotus was a brand born for and out of performance and competition, so this partnership is perfect. It joins two iconic Norfolk brands as we both accelerate on to the global stage together. Both of us share a desire for innovation and, as we herald a new era together, we (at Lotus) are incredibly excited about playing a part in the development of Norwich City Football Club and its talent. Today we are investing in that future."
Although a Norwich City fan, Mr Clare admitted coming from Manchester, he was a Man City fan too and brought up on the Lotus brand, driving an Evora himself. "It was a brand I loved as a small boy, from playing with my Scalextric when they had a type 72 to seeing the Esprit in the famous James Bond film."
He said although Lotus would look to continue its expansion abroad, it would 'categorically' always build its sports cars in Norfolk.
Ben Kensell, chief operating officer at Norwich City Football Club, said: "These are exciting times, Lotus is proud of its manufacturing history in Norfolk and we are proud of our roots in the county too so to bring two iconic brands together is a momentous deal for us. Lotus is known for powering its drivers and we are know for powering our players."
It's not the first time, however, that the two have united, with the first partnership between Lotus and Norwich City going back to 2003. In fact, there was even a Lotus shop at one time at the ground but there are no current plans to do this again.
It comes as Lotus also unveils a new-look branding with a more simple logo which features a revised roundel and new typeface, inspired by the original, and reflecting founder Colin Chapman's philosophy - to 'simplify and add lightness.'