What’s in a name? Oil partnerships point to more than remnants of empire

THIS WEEK SAW the announcement that BP is selling its stake in its JV with TNK to Rosneft prompting Frontiers to ask whether from a branding and sponsorship perspective these names, acronyms and the history behind them matters. In the days of empire, it was commonplace (and good business sense) to reference the country in the company name. Now, with the global marketplace, it doesn’t suit companies in the same way hence for example, British Gas, Telecom or Petroleum becoming BG, BT and BP and in France, Electricité de France becoming EDF.


Of course, in BP’s case, the strategy didn’t protect them from having their British roots emphasised during the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe of 2011 despite the company having a bigger operation in the US. It clearly suited the American administration to divert attention from its regulatory and operating environment. A lot of this ground seems to have been made up by BP’s Olympic sponsorship both of the event itself and of the US team. The company's strapline “fuelling the future” dialled up their investment in renewable energy which seemed at the time to have been viewed positively.


Coming back to its partnerships in Russia, BP is swapping a deal with the state oil company of Tyumen (TNK) with an agreement with Rosneft or Russian Oil. Given the widespread suspicion that the president Vladimir Putin regime has wrested control of the company away from its oligarch owners and is running it as a proxy for the national government, this is at least clear in the name. No doubt as the cycle turns Rosneft will become RN. Whether BP will still be involved to take advantage of the branding of a more equal partnership is anybody’s guess.


By Phil Savage

Follow Phil on Twitter: @PhilSBG

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