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PARIS -- Swedish telecommunications equipment manufacturer Ericsson has ended its $3 million annual sponsorship of leading French soccer club Olympique de Marseille, leaving the team without a principal advertiser on its jerseys beginning in 2002.

Ericsson officials say it's ending the partnership with France's most popular soccer club as part of a general shift away from sports sponsorship toward music events.

Havas Advertising Sports, which handles promotions, sponsorship and other marketing activities linked to Olympique de Marseille, is currently seeking a new principal advertiser for the team. Agency executives plan to hold a meeting in late March with existing and potential advertisers that may be inclined to take over Ericsson's top spot, which it has held since the 1996-97 season.

Advertising on jerseys of Olympique de MarSeille, owned and managed by Robert Louis-Dreyfus, former CEO of German sportswear firm adidas and former head of Saatchi & Saatchi, offers a prestigious window for corporate logos. The club is a perennial favorite in French competitions and a regular participant in pan-European tournaments for leading clubs, while its matches draw large TV audiences inside and outside France.

The club's high profile brings in more than $15 million in annual sponsoring revenues from advertisers, including adidas, Coca-Cola Co., retail grocer Carrefour-Promodes, Franco-Belgian fast food chain Quick and two France Telecomowned companies: mobile phone leader Itineris and Internet Service Provider Wanadoo.

Copyright March 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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