Norwich Union has announced a new £20m, five-year sponsorship deal of UK Athletics.

The insurer said the deal, which will run to the end of 2006, was the biggest ever investment in athletics in the UK. It said the deal would "secure the financial future of track and field athletics in the run-up to the Athens Olympics and beyond".

Norwich Union boss Patrick Snowball, who launched the initiative, lined up with Britain's leading 400m runner Katherine Merry.

Despite the UK's poor showing at the World Championships earlier this year, athletics chiefs said they were unlikely to be calling on Snowball's services.