Heavy hearts as vape company reaches end of Blackburn Rovers shirt sponsor deal

No more vaping sponsor at Rovers

Blackburn-based vaping company Totally Wicked has ended its long term sponsorship deal with Championship side Blackburn Rovers.

However, the club, which has today revealed a new partnership with Watson Ramsbottom Solicitors, insists Totally Wicked will continue to be “staunch supporters” of the club.

The sponsorship deal came under fire last year when MPs called for the Advertising Standards Authority to clamp down on adverts for e-cigarettes and vaping products, with one saying: “Blackburn Rovers are being sponsored by a vaping retailer, Totally Wicked, for the sixth season in a row. We would find it unacceptable if our football club came out with cigarette branding on their shirts. I cannot understand why it is any more acceptable for a football club to come out with vaping advertising.”

The Labour party manifesto includes a commitment to: “Clamping down on underage vaping by banning vapes from being branded and advertised to appeal to children.”

But Marcus Saxton, CEO of Totally Wicked, defended the sponsorship and said they had been a “proud principal sponsor” of Blackburn Rovers for those six seasons.

“Totally Wicked and Blackburn Rovers both invest in a local community that we have in common and together we have shown how a successful local partnership can flourish over time, particularly when both parties share similar values.

“Many alcohol and gambling brands continue in similar partnerships with sporting teams, although it would be difficult to identify any benefits beyond those that are purely commercial. Vaping has played an extremely positive and ground-breaking role in supporting adult smokers’ transition to a safer way of taking nicotine, and for many, to stop smoking completely.

“Our partnership with Blackburn Rovers comes to an end with heavy hearts and many positive memories, and we wish the club all the best success for the future.”

The termination of the sponsorship deal was “mutually agreed” but Totally Wicked will support the club’s official charity, Blackburn Rovers Community Trust and purchase Season Tickets and subsidise the cost of merchandise for their staff for the 2024-25 season.

Blackburn Rovers’ Steve Waggott with Marcus Saxton of Totally Wicked

Rovers’ CEO Steve Waggott added: “Everyone at the club would like to thank Totally Wicked for all their support over the last few years.

“To work closely alongside a local business owned by a huge Rovers fan has produced a much-valued and powerful partnership,” he said.

The club initially said it “looks forward to unveiling our new front of shirt sponsor over the coming weeks” but a leak of the new design of the 2024/25 season kit featured Watson Ramsbottom Solicitors.

Rovers are claiming the deal with Lancashire law firm Watson Ramsbottom is “a record deal that exceeds all other front of shirt partnership deals since 2012.”

The firm is led by boyhood Rovers fan Elton Ashworth who said:  “For me and the brand building of the business, it’s great. You’re not just getting the local audience with everyone wearing the shirts, but you’re getting exposure all over the country when Rovers play away from home in different regions.

“I’ve been a Rovers fan all my life, since my grandad started taking me when I was about seven,” he added, reflecting on his long history as a supporter of the club which dates back to going to Ewood for the first time in 1979 with grandfather, Alan.

Yasir Sufi, Head of Commercial and Partnership, said: “We would like to thank Totally Wicked for all their support over the years.

“It’s great to see another local company, who are long-term supporters of the club, as our front of shirt partners for the 24-25 season.

“It’s amazing to see the journey Elton has been on, from a six-year-old on the terraces with his grandad to working at the club in our hospitality lounges, and now his business is on the front of the Blackburn Rovers shirt.

“It just shows what can be achieved with hard work and skill and, like Totally Wicked, is another great success story for our town.”