Revolutionary Measures

Autonomy loses its autonomy

Autonomy Corporation

Image via Wikipedia

The news that Cambridge technology leader Autonomy is to be bought by HP for £7 billion has led to plenty of soul-searching and editorialising about British tech know-how being (again) being subsumed into an international megacorporation.

Like many people I’m sad that Autonomy is no longer independent, but it was definitely coming. Autonomy had put itself in the shop window – for example through sports sponsorship of both Spurs and the Mercedes Grand Prix team (interesting that HP is a previous Tottenham shirt sponsor) and CEO Mike Lynch has had a robust/adversarial relationship with the city, characterised by complaints that the company share price didn’t reflect the real value of the business. And HP paying a premium of 64 per cent on yesterday’s closing price seems to bear out his stance.

But this isn’t the end for Autonomy or its impact on the Cambridge tech scene. While overseas operations may well be merged into local HP offices, it makes no sense to shut down R&D in Cambridge as HP doesn’t have any similar technologies within its software portfolio. Autonomy is at the centre of a Cambridge cluster of businesses based on intelligent search (in one form or another) and this can only continue and grow if, as promised, HP invests in its new acquisition.

Add to this that there is now a serious amount of potential investment floating around Cambridge in particular and the UK in general for new tech ventures and, over time, this can only significantly strengthen the UK software scene. So time to celebrate success and look to the future rather than indulge in hand-wringing about British assets falling into foreign hands.


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August 19, 2011 Posted by | Cambridge | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sports sponsorship own goals

Sport seems to bring out the worst in companies and how they spend their money. Organisations with otherwise well-thought out and laser targeted marketing plans suddenly decide to pour huge amounts of cash into sports sponsorship on what seems like a whim (or more cynically it’s the CEO’s favourite team).

Autonomy’s current sponsorship of Tottenham Hotspur is a prime example – I don’t think that many of the denizens of White Hart Lane are responsible for buying high end enterprise search solutions, but nevertheless the company has splashed £20 million on plastering its name across the front of Gareth Bale.

It got me thinking about other misguided sports sponsorships, and, while I’m sure there are plenty more, here’s my top 10:

1.Waitrose and Reading FC

Waitrose is pretty good at marketing to middle England – so why sponsor Reading football club when few of its target audience support it or are that bothered by Championship football? Waitrose HQ isn’t far away from Reading, but surely there’s a limit to what can be spent on employee motivation?

2.US Postal Service and Lance Armstrong

A brave move by the US equivalent of the Royal Mail to move away from its reputation for poor service and frequent office shootings (hence the phrase ‘going postal’). But sponsoring a cycling team that raced 99 per cent of the time outside its domestic market isn’t be that effective a way of reaching your target audience.

3. Durex and Surtees F1

The testosterone-filled Grand Prix scene and sex sounds like the perfect combination. Hence Durex’s sponsorship of the Surtees F1 team in the 1970s. Then the cars began to suffer from punctures – not the right message for a condom maker……..

4. Austrian football

Such is the parlous state of Austrian football finances that teams are forced to name themselves after sponsors, no matter how silly they might be. Glatter’s Quality Turkeys versus FC Concept Schnitzlplatz anyone?

5.Hafnia and Everton FC

Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones spoke for the nation ahead of the 1984 FA Cup final when they asked who (or what?) was a Hafnia, then sponsors of Everton FC. Extensive research reveals Hafnia to be a Danish canned meat company, but even Wikipedia isn’t quite certain. Given the Toffees featured Welsh man-mountain Neville Southall in goal, Hafnia’s products obviously had a big following in the dressing room.

6.Paris Hilton and MotoGP

Working on her normal subtle self-promotion socialite Paris Hilton is sponsoring a MotoGP team in 2011. Good for the team and sport, but can’t really see how it helps her brand – even if the bikes are a lurid shade of pink.

7.Cercle Brugge and the Roman Catholic Church

One that didn’t happen after the Belgian football club Cercle Brugge turned down sponsorship from a leading Roman Catholic newspaper, for fear of ridicule. If it had been 30 years ago, they could have put Pope John Paul II in goal…………

8. Norwich City and Lotus Cars

The Lotus factory is in Norfolk, but the rural county isn’t exactly bursting with potential sportscar buyers, making the company’s upmarket sponsorship of the Budgies a trifle optimistic. More realistic when they stuck parent company’s Proton’s brand on the shirts.

9. Millwall FC and Lewisham Council

It’s fair to say that Millwall FC (and its fans) has a certain reputation, and it isn’t for flower arranging. So if you were looking to raise the brand of your area and show it as go-ahead and welcoming they wouldn’t really be your first choice of channel. But the Lions’ local council sponsored the team on not one, but two occasions in the late 80s/early 90s – hardly the best use of its marketing budget?

10. Livingston FC and Intelligent Finance

Surely, if you are a finance company sponsoring a football team, the first thing you think you’d do is check out the club’s solvency? Not in the case of Intelligent Finance and Livingston FC – the club duly went into administration. And to add insult to injury the main creditor was Halifax Bank of Scotland, Intelligent Finance’s parent company.


I’m sure there are plenty of other misplaced sponsorships – feel free to add them through comments.


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January 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment