PDVSA's love of sports sponsorship

Ride those petrodollars baby
Ride those petrodollars baby

PDVSA is in a financial pickle, so lately they have been asking for loans all around the globe. From Russian and European oil companies to Halliburton (yes, that Halliburton), they have extended their hats in the hope of benefitting from the kindness of strangers, not only to keep paying their own bills but also the ones of the Venezuelan State.

But as the oil company has become more entangled with all aspects of our economy, one important spending item for them is yet to feel a neccesary squeeze: their many sport sponsorship deals.

PDVSA has become the most important advertiser in Venezuelan sports in recent years, from supporting school sports games to sponsoring many of our local football clubs. They also had signed deals with foreign clubs like Ecuador’s Emelec and El Salvador’s FAS (through its subsidiary ALBA Petroleos) which have been already been dropped. So, silver lining, at least the company has made some cuts.

Yet no other deal has captivated the public’s attention quite as much as the one involving Formula 1 driver Pastor Maldonado.

PDVSA has been a key player in the contracts with both his current team Lotus and its previous racing team Williams. But with Maldonado’s recent form in the F1 season leaving a lot to be desired, some question if this deal is really worth paying…

That has not stopped PDVSA from looking for the next major athlete to back, and apparently they just did: In the recently finished Roland Garros tournament, a young Spanish-Venezuelan tennis player named Garbiñe Muguruza pulled off a major upset by eliminating Serena Williams and giving one hell of a match to Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals (the Russian eventually won both the match and the tournament).

But even if Muguruza is currently representing Spain, that could change pretty soon. According to Spanish sport newspaper AS, PDVSA could be instrumental in convincing Muguruza to switch countries and start representing Venezuela after the request from the national tennis federation (FVT). Muguruza is expected to make her choice in October or November.

The other important sponsorship for PDVSA is the one tying them to La Vinotinto, the national football team. However, the Venezuelan Football Federation (FVF) surprisingly announced to the public that its former main sponsor, Empresas Polar, would return, but only in the youth-related categories. PDVSA will remain involved wiht the main team. Given the history of how the FVF and Polar broke off in the first place, this could signal that PDVSA is not fulfilling its role in the way the private company used to.

Ultimately, one has to wonder where the value is for PDVSA in all of this. An oil company doesn’t need to sponsor athletes as advertisement – the stuff practically sells itself, so why go through all the trouble of having advertising in the first place. In fact, very few oil companies sponsor sports teams. It’s just weird.

But PDVSA is not really an oil company. It is the financial arm of the PSUV, and as such, its ads are really attempts to link the governing party to national sporting icons. By tying their image to La Vinotinto or Maldonado or Muguruza, PDVSA seems to be telegraphing that even Venezuelans who don’t care for politics and only want to enjoy sports … can’t escape the gaze of the Revolution.

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  1. Errata: Where the author of this article said: “Pastor Maldonado” you would read: “Pastor Crashdonado”

  2. Pdvsa represents Oil in Venezuela , that distorts what it is at the core , a Business which primary object is to maximize the profit which the country can get from optimally and rationally exploiting this resource. There are two other ways of looking at Pdvsa , as an infinite source of wealth to serve the political promotion of the govt that controls it , then there is Pdvsa the very powerful and emotional symbol of national sovereignty , the thing that puts us on the Map and makes us feel great about our country .!!

    The reason why Venezuela and Pdvsa are in the situation we currently face is because for 15 years the regime has refused to view Pdvsa as the business it is and used it primarily (1) for the building of political patronage and the corruption of its leaders and their allies .and (2) for histrionically playing up that nationalist card that makes so many common people weep with glorified emotion .

    Pdvsa sponsoring of higly visible sports has no business objective because the regime isnt interested in Pdvsa as a business , its object is to try and make people feel pride in ‘Venezuela’ making it big in the scenario of world sports and identifying that pride with the political regime that owns and controls Pdvsa .

    Car racing is not a ‘popular’ sport in Venezuela like soccer or baseball , its a middle class type of sports , so in a way it reveals the consumerist mentality of the chavista bigwigs despite their purported revolutionary pedigree.!! Its an act of blatant hypocrisy on the part of the regime !!

    • I agree in almost all you did say, however, the thing of using PDVSA as a political tool is not a contemporany issue. Since it was decided that Venezuela needed to have a Public national oil company (with more or less influence of the big state in the company decision making) the problem started to grow stonger each day until the final result that we have now

  3. LOL Maldanado. I can not for the life of me think of more cash wasted on 1 hero of driving. Hell even the Soviets knew better to waste money on F1. PDVSA-Citgo should sponsor a Sprint Cup team at half the price. It would be epic. Maldanado was made for NASCAR.

  4. Back in 2011, I would find myself hoping purely out of spite that Pastor Maldonado would crash and lose every race. People would tell me that that was too harsh, that I should instead support our national talent, regardless of his political affiliation. I hardly hear the same comment anymore.
    On a related note, I hope Muguruza rejects whatever offer PDVSA throws at her.

  5. The most ridiculous aspect of PDVSA’s Formula 1 sponsorship is that it’s completely useless as an international marketing tool. You won’t find PDVSA-brand synthetic oil in any autoparts store in the main Formula 1 markets. You won’t find PDVSA gas stations in Singapore, or France. So why advertise? What are they advertising? PDVSA painted on the side of an F1 car is an expensive waste of advertising space. Might as well go all honest and just paint all over the car the word “Venezuela” and the flag. It would make much more sense commercially. CITGO sponsorship in US auto racing makes sense because it is a retail brand. There are thousands of CITGO gas stations in the US, so it would make sense to advertise them in an automotive related activity. Plus, CITGO can provide the racing team with products and technology. But PDVSA has neither any significant retail sales outside of Venezuela, nor products and technology to share in the incredibly complex F1 world. It just sells oil, a comodity. To add insult to injury, Lotus F1 Team uses Total (French oil company) fuel and lubricants. They are the real technological partners, not PDVSA.
    Most people give Maldonado a bad rap because of this PDVSA sponsorship, but I think it’s totally unfair and inefficient. The blame and responsibility rests solely on PDVSA. Maldonado is a 20something race car driver, why should he know if PDVSA is making good use or not of its money? Why should he be the one to second guess the decisions made by the financial and marketing teams of a large State-owned corporation? I know that some people are snickering after reading the last line, but seriously, for every single criticism I read about PDVSA wasting millions on F1 I read a bunch of insults and moral outrage on Maldonado. I’m not defending him here and I don’t care to, I’m just pointing out that to me the blame for this outrageous waste of resources is PDVSA’s only, because it’s an incredibly bad and pointless marketing decision, and a dramatic waste and misuse of resources. It’s unfair to shift even a tiny bit of the blame away from PDVSA and Chavismo.

  6. First of all,PDVSA sponsorships are for propaganda uses,that is all(of course not,there’s always more)
    Second, I wouldn’t be surprised if Muguruza took PDVSA’s offer.After all,it’s important for PDVSA to sponsor her,and they will offer more money than anybody else. What,you think she works at McDonald’s to pay the bills?

    And third: SPORTS > anything else to people,so nobody cares who sponsors what,they just want to see prettier uniforms,and their venezuelan shitty sportsmen on the field.


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