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Today, overt sponsorship of leading sportspeople is a refined art. Note the deft manner in which Nico Rosberg casually slips on another brand new Thomas Sabo wristwatch as he steps onto the top rung of the Grand Prix podium, or Marc Marquez takes a healthy tug on a can of Red Bull as he makes his way through the ranks of weeping, vanquished rivals to collect another enormous trophy.
Until recent personal issues, Tiger Woods could take his pick from a chorusing line up of willing sponsors, offering everything from clothing to luxury automobiles, and Roger Federer’s left wrist is never seen in public unless adorned by the latest Rolex timepiece. Success breeds success, and everyone loves a winner. It was thus so even when Edgar Jessop was the pin-up boy of motorcycle racing; his highly collectible posters adorning the bedroom walls of teenagers of both (or all three) sexes, his signature a prized capture for any autograph hunter. Edgar too, could pick and choose when it came to endorsements and sponsorship, and he generally made his selection in line with personal proclivities. He enjoyed a robust relationship (and conducted exhaustive product testing) with the producer of rubber goods, Ansell, and it wasn’t for washing up gloves. Since his shirt was frequently ripped from his back by hysterical female admirers, a Van Heusen representative shadowed his every move, proffering appropriately styled garments from a seemingly inexhaustible stock. A French Riviera-based consortium licenced his name (and continues to do so) to flog their exclusive and expensive range of boutique fragrances. It was while competing in South Australia at the Barossa Vintage TT, where he rode the challenging Spagforth Juniper, that Edgar was approached by a representative from Penfolds Wines, with a view to providing sponsorship in cash and (especially) kind. Edgar had met Penfolds’ winemaker Max Schubert at the Grand Prix de Bordeaux in 1951, and Schubert had made a gift of several cases of his new creation tentatively named Haymaker Hermitage. Edgar was impressed with the wine but not the name and suggested naming it Grange, after his country estate in Suffolk, and the rest is history. Delighted with the sales uptake, Penfolds commissioned the construction of a special vehicle (capable of dispensing almost unlimited quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin or Tokay from separate compartments) that accompanied Edgar on the complete length of his highly successful Australian tour. On completion of the engagement, the vehicle was presented to Edgar, and later Spagforth made a limited run of replicas, which – appropriately – were powered by steam.
ABOVE Mrs Editor outside the Edgar store in San Tropez; a licencing association with the Jessop Trust that has endured for many decades.
LEFT Edgar Jessop’s valet, Murgatroyd, awaits his master’s pleasure.