Madrid Sol metro station to lose 'Vodafone' tag

By Sonya Dowsett

MADRID (Reuters) - Madrid underground station Sol will lose the 'Vodafone' tag which appears on signs at the metro stop and maps of the network when a sponsorship deal with the telecoms company ends in May, a spokeswoman for Madrid regional government said on Friday.

The 2013 branding of the metro station at Madrid's most emblematic square had sparked protests from companies to social activists. The deal is worth around 1 million euros ($1.1 million) per year and the funds are ploughed back into the metro service, the spokeswoman said.

"It won't be necessary to have these kind of sponsorship deals if we are able to achieve savings from improved efficiencies," the head of transport for the Madrid government, Pedro Rollan, said earlier this week.

Sol is the symbolic centre of Spain from which the numbering of the country's road system is measured. It is an important gathering place for Spaniards who come in their thousands to celebrate New Year's Eve under its famous clock tower.

Tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators filled the square at the height of the country's economic crisis in 2011.

Vodafone confirmed the contract, which puts the British company's logo and name on signage throughout the station, would end on May 31 and said it was analysing the situation without adding more detail.

Corporate sponsorship deals are a controversial way for city councils to generate funds to maintain and repair everything from underground stations to famous landmarks.

London Underground sold the naming rights to a metro station for the first time ever last year in a deal with Nestle, when it renamed Canada Water station after mineral water brand Buxton Water for 24 hours on the day of the London Marathon.

Unions criticised the move.

Rome has allowed discrete sponsorship from luxury groups Tod's and LVMH-owned Fendi to pay for the restoration of ancient landmarks such as the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain.

($1 = 0.9002 euros)

(Reporting by Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Mark Potter)

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