When it was announced in 2017 that Randox Health would be the new sponsor of the Grand National, it was met with surprise by many within the sport.
It was the first time since 1984 that it hadn’t been sponsored by an alcoholic beverage brand!
In December 2020, it was revealed that the firm had agreed to extend their sponsorship agreement, and so after their current deal ends in 2021 they will then serve again as principal sponsor until 2026.
Randox will lend their name to the Grand National itself, plus two other key feature races at the Aintree meeting – the Foxhunters Chase and the Topham Chase.
Who are Randox Health?
Even though the name might not ring any bells, Randox Health has been an integral part of the UK’s fight during the 2020/21 health crisis – they developed their own testing kits, and tens of thousands of these were used at the height of the disaster.
Aside from that, Randox is a provider of worldwide healthcare services, offering rapid testing and diagnostic tools in the fight against heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, stroke and some forms of cancer.
Who Has Sponsored the Grand National?
Aside from Randox, there has been a particularly boozy feel to Grand National sponsorship in the past.
Grand National Sponsors – 1984 to 2026
|Year From||Year To||Sponsor||Brand Type||Races|
|1979||1979||Colt Cars||Vehicle Sales||1|
|1975||1977||News of the World||News||3|
The ginger beer producer was in the sponsorship hotseat for three editions of the famous steeplechase.
Crabbie’s oversaw a landmark moment in Grand National history – in 2014, they upped the total prize pool to £1 million, and that was the first time the kitty had reached the seven figure mark.
But Halewood Wines and Spirits, who produce the brand and who are located a stone’s throw from Aintree, posted huge losses in 2015 and decided to pull the plug on their sponsorship. They were replaced by Randox Health.
John Smith’s (2005-2013)
The famous bitter brand has often dipped its toe into sports sponsorship, and in 2005 they splashed the cash to secure the rights to the Grand National for what would become an eight-year partnership.
In their first year as sponsor, the prize pool was kept fairly consistent at £700,000, but by their final term John Smith’s had upped the kitty to £975,000 – with the winner banking connections a rather handsome £575,000.
However, a brutal edition of the Grand National in 2012, which left two horses having to be put down, the brewer decided to pull out of sponsoring the race due to the negative press that it brought.
The longest serving title sponsor in the history of the race, this cognac brand was actually owned by Seagram, the previous incumbent.
However, a £4.5 million deal was struck that would see the Grand National prefixed with the Martell name, and it was a contract that would remain in place for more than a decade.
In their maiden sponsored edition, the connections of winner Party Politics trousered less than £100,000 for their efforts, but by 2014 – Martell’s final Grand National – the ownership team of Amberleigh House left Merseyside £348,000 richer from a total prize pot of £600,000.
Amazingly, given how popular the race was with a TV audience and with punters, it wasn’t until 1984 that the Grand National got its first title sponsor.
The lucky firm was Seagram, a little known whisky distiller that actually hailed from Canada.
The old legend goes that Ivan Straker, chairman of Seagram and a racehorse owner/fanatic, persuaded the brand’s decision-makers to sponsor the race – knowing that if no commercial partner was found, Aintree racecourse may just have been sold to property developers.
Straker has been hailed as a saviour of the Grand National in the past, and in his obituary it was written by The Scotsman newspaper that he was the ‘Scot who saved the National.’
In a bizarre twist, the last year that Seagram sponsored the Grand National it was won by a horse called….you guessed it, Seagram!
Colt Car Company (1979)
Readers of a certain vintage probably won’t remember the Colt Car Company, which was essentially Mitsubishi’s UK division from 1974 onwards.
The firm actually ran until 2021, when the decision was taken to no longer sell Mitsubishi vehicles under the ‘Colt’ brand. The company was acquired by International Motors, who are best known as an importer of Subaru and Isuzu cars and commercial trucks.
Launched in 1974, the Colt Car Company wanted to enhance their brand recognition among the UK market, and the opportunity to sponsor the Grand National revealed itself – temporarily breaking News International’s monopoly on the title partnership.
Although the terms of the deal are not known publicly, the race was rebranded as the Colt Car Grand National for one year only – before they relinquished their contract and Rupert Murdoch’s media empire took hold once more.
The Sun (1978, 1980-1983)
In 1978, News International chief Murdoch decided that the Grand National, as the people’s race, tied in better with The Sun brand than the News of the World, who were the previous incumbent. And so an agreement was reached to switch the headline sponsor of the race within his company.
All told, The Sun had a five-year stint as the main sponsor of the showpiece occasion, first appearing on the racecard in 1978 before the mini-interruption of the Colt Car Company a year later.
They returned in 1980 and would serve a further four years, until Seagram took over the mantle in 1984.
News of the World (1975-77)
The now defunct News of the World newspaper was the first major sponsor of the Grand National in the 1970s, at a time when Aintree’s finances were ailing and attendances of the National were falling.
It was the News International group’s first foray into Grand National sponsorship, and they would also add their name and finances to a range of sporting competitions at the time.
Those included the News of the World Match Play in golf and the News of the World Darts Championship, which was essentially a precursor to the BDO World Championship and played on an oche of 8ft in length rather than 7ft 9in, making it the hardest tournament in the sport to win.
Once the biggest selling newspaper on the planet, the News of the World sponsored the Grand National for three years between 1975 and 1977, before the baton was passed to sister publication The Sun.