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By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Sponsor interest in the Extreme E electric off-road racing series has accelerated since last month's debut in Saudi Arabia, team owner and 2016 Formula One champion Nico Rosberg said on Thursday.
The German's Rosberg X Racing team won in the Al Ula desert with Sweden's triple rallycross champion Johan Kristoffersson and Australian rally driver Molly Taylor taking turns at the wheel.
"After our win as a team it’s been amazing, the amount of interest we received from companies saying ‘hey, how can we leverage on this , let’s partner up, can we invest’, all of these things has been phenomenal," Rosberg told Reuters.
The German announced IG Prime, the prime brokerage division of IG, as the latest team partner and said there were several more in the pipeline.
"It shows how it’s been received in the world. A good start to the championship," he said ahead of round two in Senegal this weekend.
"The sponsors are absolutely loving it. Also because the return on investment is interesting. When you look at the money they have to put up to the return that they get out, it’s really strong."
Extreme E aims to highlight climate change and promote sustainability by racing in remote parts of the world affected by global warming or suffering environmental damage and also carrying out local projects.
There are five rounds ranging from locations in the Arctic to the Amazon and every team must field a male and female driver.
Other team owners include seven-times F1 champion Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg's former Mercedes team mate, and 2009 champion Jenson Button.
Rosberg said the series, which he described as "Blue Planet meets motor racing for a good cause", had arrived at the right moment.
"It’s electric mobility, which is a massive topic...plus you’ve got this purpose of trying to combat climate change by what we are doing, not only by raising awareness but also by kick-starting initiatives," he added.
"It just resonates with the moment so much. Companies want to associate themselves with purpose-driven sporting events."
The latest deal could also benefit the team on the ground, through Extreme E's fan engagement "gridplay" feature.
"The team that has the most votes can decide on the final grid slot. IG Prime employees are supporting us, so it’s a nice partnership like that," said Rosberg.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)