MORRISVILLE, N.C. – Lenovo’s marketing offensive to become a global brand opened on another front Friday.

The world’s third largest computer manufacturer officially signed on today as a sponsor of the Williams Formula One racing team in the United Kingdom.

The sponsorship includes Lenovo’s logo painted on the Williams race cars’ side gas tanks driven by Nico Rosberg and Alex Wurz.

Reports have said Lenovo is investing as much as $40 million in the effort. Lenovo displaced one of its rivals, Hewlett-Packard, as a Williams sponsor.

The Williams team, which is based near Oxford, is sponsored overall by AT&T.

By signing the Williams deal, Lenovo assures itself of significant exposure in Formula One racing, one of the world’s most popular sports. Lenovo is also a sponsor of the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, World Cup Soccer and the National Basketball Association. It also was a major sponsor of the most recent Winter Olympics in Italy.

Becoming a global brand is one of the key initiatives launched by Lenovo Chief Executive Officer William Amelio. Amelio was in Raleigh on Thursday for a speech. Up until Friday’s announcement, Lenovo had remained noncommittal about the Williams F1 deal, even though reports have been circulating in China and the F1 press about the deal.

Lenovo’s computers will also be used by the Williams teams.

“Lenovo is an international technology company obsessed with innovation, and they will undoubtedly help us achieve success in every area of our business," said Frank Williams, team principal for AT&T Williams.

In addition to its sponsorship, Lenovo’s expertise is needed, added Alex Burns, chief operating officer for the team.

“In Formula One, teams are highly reliant on PC technology. With Lenovo’s record of innovation, reliability and performance in ThinkPad notebooks and Lenovo desktops, we are confident that our team is lined up with the very best," said Alex Burns, Williams Chief Operating Officer.

Lenovo’s involvement was announced by Deepak Advani, the firm’s chief marketing officer.

“Formula One provides an exciting platform to build Lenovo awareness in key markets worldwide, and to showcase our products and their reliability,” he said. “This is a sport where cutting-edge technology is essential. We are honored to join AT&T Williams and are motivated to work with the team, its partners and the sport in building the Lenovo business and Formula One."

The Williams team is one of the best known in Formula One racing, having won 16 world championships and 113 Grand Prix events. The team is owned by Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head.