Video: The role of sponsorship in delivering London’s transport

London's Cycle Hire scheme is commercially sponsored. Photo: MayorWatch

Boris Johnson has initiated or delivered three major transport projects since coming to office in 2008 – the cycle hire scheme, the new bus for London and his cable car.

Of these, two have been accompanied by very loud sponsorship deals which aren’t to everyone’s tastes.

The deal for the cycle hire was so wide ranging it even saw the scheme’s roundel re-coloured to Barclays corporate blue, something the Mayor’s former transport advisor defended when I interviewed him about the agreement last year.

Like the Barclays cycle deal, the sponsorship deal with Emirates airline for the cable car scheme has seen Transport for London’s roundel merged with third-party corporate brand into a jarringly commercial emblem.

Placing of the sponsor name ahead of the roundel could imply to some that the commercial partner is playing the greater role in delivering the service, but the little we’re allowed to know about the secret sponsorship contracts suggests that’s not so.

As for the cable car’s name, I’m pretty clear ‘Emirates Air Line’ benefits the sponsor more than it does Londoners.

On Thursday the London Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee questioned TfL’s Deputy Chair Daniel Moylan and Commercial Development Director Graeme Craig about the role of sponsorship.

A video of the first part of the meeting can be seen below but there are a few points worth noting.

Questioned about the Mayor’s failure to secure private funding for the cable car’s entire costs, Moylan refers to a bid for European Development Funds.

Though they may come from European institutions, these are still public funds, yet TfL repeatedly refers to them as a way of meeting the commitment.

Revenue from letting out the retail units within the cable car stations is also raised, but Boris says these would provide “materially smaller amounts” than the sponsorship money.

Moylan also refers to protecting the TfL roundel. Given how willing Boris and TfL have been to cloak it in corporate liveries and breach their own style guide, it’s difficult to imagine quite how that protection manifests itself.

Thursday’s meeting is part of an investigation into TfL’s procedures for securing and managing sponsorship agreements with the private sector. Details about the committee’s work can be found here.