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SBD Global/April 10, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

BMW Int'l Sponsorship Head Eckhard Wannieck Talks About Company's Sports Sponsorships

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BMW sponsorship boss Eckhard Wannieck said a sport sponsorship deal has to fit the brand's image and asperations.
German car maker BMW has been creating headlines with ever-increasing car sale numbers around the globe. The brand sees itself as No. 1 in the premium car segment and is very active in the sports sponsorship market. As a London 2012 Olympic Partner, BMW has received worldwide exposure on the biggest stage. BMW Int'l Sponsorship, Cooperation & Product Placement Head Eckhard Wannieck spoke with SBD Global about the company's strategy in signing sports sponsorship deals and its focus on upper-class sports like golf and sailing.

Q:
What is BMW’s strategy when it decides on a possible sports sponsorship?
Eckhard Wannieck: It is important to us that a sport fits the image and aspirations of the BMW brand as well as of its target audiences. BMW should be able to identify itself with the brand values of the sport. Authenticity, credibility, sustainability and especially the opportunity to co-create are important criteria for us. We don’t see ourselves as a traditional sponsor, whose involvement is limited to a pure financial support in order to place its logo. We see ourselves as a partner that is actively involved. As we have done it in golf for 25 years.

Q: What are the goals of BMW’s sports sponsorship deals? Is it simply about increased car sales?
Wannieck: It is about two things for us: First, we want to capture the attention of our target audiences and transfer the different image components of a certain sport to our brand. There are different platforms to adequately position ourselves in order to appeal to BMW drivers and attract new customers. When it comes to sport, emotions, performance thinking and the technology component play an especially important role. Our duty is to fill this field with life. In addition, we pursue the goal, with the help of the individual sport, to make the BMW brand with all its facets come alive. We want to generate excitement. If we are able to do so it will obviously also help with car sales.

Q: What are BMW’s criteria in considering a sponsorship deal with a sport, team or event?
Wannieck: At the beginning, each potential involvement is evaluated by brand aspects as well as customer relevance. The basic values of the BMW brand such as dynamic, innovation, aesthetic and, of course, the joy of driving are supposed to be mirrored in the selected sponsorship deals. It is important that each sponsorship deal is typical for BMW and doesn’t lose credibility. The brand and the potential sport should have synergy potential in order to be mutually beneficial.

Q: Why are a majority of BMW’s sponsorship deals limited to golf, sailing, winter sports and the Olympics? Why not football or basketball?
Wannieck: You can’t and shouldn’t support everything. If you want to sharpen your brand you have to have a clear focus and act with maximum consistency. Less is also, and especially here, more. Overall, we always pursue two separate concepts. On the one hand with big, worldwide effective, flagship deals that we scale down to the amateur level in the individual markets. The international cornerstones consist largely of motorsports and golf as well as sailing. We can look back at partnerships in all those segments. Parallel to those flagship deals, our numerous national marketing and sales companies have a certain freedom to engage in their own deals and therefore accommodate their individual situations, such as is the case with athletics and winter sports in Germany, polo in Argentina or rugby in South Africa. In addition, we want to highlight our partnerships with a number of National Olympic Committees.

Q: What new sports sponsorship activities does BMW have in the works?
Wannieck: We constantly observe the scene. Please understand that we won’t make our strategy public. However, consistent, credible and long-term partnerships are important to us, therefore you won't see a sudden strategy change or knee-jerk actions from us.

Q: What’s your personal take on BMW’s sponsorship of the London Olympic Games? Will we see BMW at upcoming Olympic Winter or Summer Games?
Wannieck: The Olympic Games were a huge success for the BMW Group and its brands. Because of tremendous visibility, especially during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, we were able to showcase our brand values as well as technological themes such as BMW EfficientDynamics to a worldwide audience. Please understand that we won’t participate in any speculations.

Q: How closely do you watch the sports sponsorship activities of your competitors such as Audi, Volkswagen, Mercedes, Ford, Chevrolet, etc.?
Wannieck: We watch the scene very closely -- as No. 1 in the premium segment -- but coordinate our sponsorship deals solely based on our own strategy.
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