Old Mutual, the international financial services group, has signed a three-year deal to become the new sponsor of the Zimbabwe Cricket Team.

Old Mutual will sponsor the Zimbabwe team for all home and away Test matches, one-day internationals and overseas tours until 2004 - starting with their forthcoming tour of India, which gets underway later this week.

"With the impending visit of world champions Australia, a tour to England next summer and the 2003 Cricket World Cup sandwiched in between, this is an exciting time for Zimbabwe cricket and we are delighted to have the support of such a prestigious company as Old Mutual," said Andy Flower, Zimbabwe's former world number one ranked batsman.

Graham Hollick, CEO of Old Mutual in Zimbabwe said: "Once again Old Mutual has demonstrated confidence in and commitment to this country with this sponsorship. We are proud to be championing the cause of Zimbabwe cricket and look forward to co-operating closely with the Zimbabwe Team and management to ensure the success of the team over the course of the next three years."

"With an expected global audience of over 1 billion for the World Cup alone, we can confidently expect a valuable return on our investment with some excellent media exposure in key markets," he added.

The deal was brokered by WSM, the London-based specialist sports brand-building consultancy. Andrew White, WSM's Chief Executive, said: "Given the present economic climate this is an excellent deal for Zimbabwe cricket and the association with a company the stature of Old Mutual is a tremendous endorsement for the sport in the country.

"Old Mutual's investment will provide vital funding for the ZCU, enabling Zimbabwe cricket to compete at the very highest level over the coming few years," he added.

Old Mutual plc is a world-class international financial services company with a strong heritage in Southern Africa. The company's portfolio includes expanding operations in life assurance, asset management, banking and short-term, general insurance.

The Old Mutual group worldwide managed in excess of US$234 billion in funds as at June 30, 2001 and has approximately 3.8 million life assurance policyholders, 2.4 million banking customers, 400,000 short-term insurance policyholders and more than 900,000 unit trust accounts worldwide.

Old Mutual's primary listing is on the London Stock Exchange (symbol OML) and it is a FTSE 100 financial services group, and ranks as a Fortune Global 500 company.

Old Mutual is the largest financial services group in Zimbabwe and is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. The operations of the group in Zimbabwe comprise Old Mutual Life Assurance Company, Old Mutual Unit Trusts, Old Mutual Asset Managers, Central Africa Building Society and RM Insurance.