£5m Spinnaker Tower sponsorship deal sparks backlash over red and white design

editorial image
  • Pompey fans criticise use of Southampton FC colours
  • Emirates boss Tim Clark says this is the chance for ‘something special’ to happen in Portsmouth
  • City leaders gather at Spinnaker Tower to announce £5m naming rights deal between council and major airliner
  • Rebrand will be completed in time for for America’s Cup World Series
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IT’S a deal that will bring in almost £5m for the city and see one of Portsmouth’s most iconic structures turned red and white – but not everyone is happy about it.

The Spinnaker Tower is getting a makeover as part of a sponsorship deal between Portsmouth City Council and Emirates.

For those who don’t know Portsmouth, this is your moment, and an opportunity to really make something special.

Sir Tim Clark, chief executive of Emirates

The airline giant has acquired the naming rights for the tower in a contract that will see the city council rake in almost £1m annually for the next five years.

After the announcement yesterday, some praised the deal as a shrewd business move designed to mitigate an expected loss of £11m in government grants to the city this year.

But many were resentful of the idea that one of Portsmouth’s most recognisable landmarks is to share a colour scheme with Southampton Football Club.

Within six hours almost 3,000 people had signed a petition to have the colour change scrapped.

Pompey fan Alex Judd, 25, who set up the petition, said: ‘The city bleeds blue.

‘The rivalry between us and Southampton is so engrained, that to have red and white paint on arguably Portsmouth’s biggest and most visible landmark shows a real lack of understanding about what is valuable to most of the residents in Portsmouth.’

The Emirates contract was announced at the tower itself yesterday afternoon.

City and business leaders had a more upbeat message, saying the move to bring in the company – which has a number of sponsorship deals within sport including the naming rights for the FA Cup – will help to minimise public cuts and be another boost to the city’s ever-growing profile.

But there was an immediate backlash on social media when the first artist’s impressions of how the tower will look went on display.

Twitter user @no1son said: ‘No way can they paint it red?!? Southampton FC will be laughing about that!’

And fan @Pompey_1976 added: ‘will never take my family up that with red on - No way.’

The leader of Portsmouth City Council hit back at critics who said the new-look design for Spinnaker Tower resembles the colours of Southampton Football Club.

Councillor Donna Jones said the rebranding of the landmark was ‘not about football’ but for the good of the city.

And she said the red changes would be subtle and the majority of the tower would be staying white.

She said: ‘The rebranding of the tower is not about football, it’s about being associated with a luxury brand.

‘As for the apprehension of people who think the development looks like a Southampton strip, while I understand their concerns, they need to wait and see. That’s because the red will be kept to a minimum and the vast majority of the tower will remain white and won’t see major change at all.’

But Pompey fans have spoken of their fury the landmark will be plastered in the colours of their rivals – and a petition against the move is gathering pace.

Chair of the Pompey Pals Project charity Bob Beech said: ‘I really admire Donna and the work the council does but this is not so clever.

‘I know money talks and it will bring in much-needed money but this won’t go down well with people. I’ve heard people say we should boycott the tower, boycott the Emirates.’

Pompey hall of fame committee chairman Jake Payne added: ‘It’s ridiculous, it will give [Southampton] a hold on us without even trying. We are the home of the navy we should be associated with the colour 

Even Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage weighed in.

After one disgruntled Gosport resident sent her a message on Twitter saying: ‘Help, Gosport residents don’t want to look at a red tower. Pompey is BLUE,’ Ms Dinenage replied: ‘I’m with you.’

The Spinnaker Tower will be repainted and rebranded to reflect Emirates’ affiliation in time for the America’s Cup Series when it comes to Portsmouth’s shores next month.

The legs of the landmark – which will be renamed the Emirates Spinnaker Tower – will be coated red and the edges will be the same colour.

The Spinnaker’s cafe will be rebranded and Emirates’ website will feature near the bottom of the tower.

The council will take £700,000 a year in sponsorship, and a further £300,000 will be spent by Emirates advertising Portsmouth as a destination on flights, in VIP lounges, magazines and Gold members will be encouraged to promote the city.

Additional reporting by Sam Bannister and 
Adam Spencer-Hicken