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Volume 6 No. 216

Marketing and Sponsorship

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.

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.

Visa and FIFA "have confirmed talks have been held over extending the company’s top-tier sponsorship of world football’s governing body, but have denied reports a new deal has been agreed through to the 2022 World Cup," according to SOCCEREX. Visa signed its current deal with FIFA in June '07 and it is due to run through '14, taking in the World Cup in Brazil. Media reports last week stated that the company had reached an eight-year extension to the partnership valued at more that $170M. However, Visa and FIFA said that these reports are premature. In a joint statement the two organizations said: "The partnership between FIFA and Visa has been an effective component of the global marketing activities for both organisations since 2007. While both FIFA and Visa greatly value this relationship and have been in discussions regarding the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups, we have no official news to share at this point in time" (SOCCEREX, 4/9).

Second Bundesliga club Hertha BSC and German national railway company Deutsche Bahn "have extended their title sponsorship deal for another two years," according to the SID. Hertha President Werner Gegenbauer said, "I believe that the Deutsche Bahn can be in the middle-term proud again to see its logo on the Hertha jersey." The Deutsche Bahn has been Hertha's title sponsor since '06. The club "will reportedly receive about" €4.5M ($5.9M) per season. The contract "also includes a clause for fan engagement." A task force will work together with fans to find solutions on the topic of security (SID, 4/8). 

The friendship between late IMG CEO Ted Forstmann and India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, "was the foundation for a joint venture with ambitious plans to develop football and basketball in India," according to Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson of the FINANCIAL TIMES. That venture "is now core to the emerging market growth story" private equity group Forstmann Little "will pitch to potential buyers" as it considers a sale of IMG that could value the sports, fashion and entertainment marketing agency at $2B or more. IMG CEO & Chair Mike Dolan said that "he has little insight into Forstmann Little's strategic review," but he said IMG is "a unique company" for its diverse and increasingly int'l collection of deals with athletes such as Novak Djokovic, singers including Taylor Swift, models such as Heidi Klum and various leagues, franchises and events. Much as when Mark McCormack founded IMG by signing golf legend Arnold Palmer in '60, "the core of its value is sport." Sport is the centerpiece of IMG's ambitions from China to sub-Saharan Africa. To that end, "IMG has struck four joint ventures in three years: with Reliance in India, with state broadcaster CCTV in China, with Eike Batista’s EBX in Brazil, and with Dogus, the private conglomerate, in Turkey." Under a '10 deal with the All India Football Federation, IMG Reliance "acquired all commercial rights to football in India for 15 years." Dolan "acknowledges the challenge of pushing football and basketball in a nation obsessed with cricket." While 95% of Indians over 45 cite cricket as their favorite sport, the figure drops to 50% "among those under 20." Dolan would not disclose financial details, but described the football investment as "very attractive on the most conservative assumption you can imagine" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 4/9).

ManU enhanced its chances of reclaiming its position as "the highest-earning side in the world" with an eight-year deal worth almost £19.6M ($30M) a year, through which Aon will sponsor the Carrington training ground, according to Ian Herbert of the London INDEPENDENT. Aon’s "willingness to strike a new deal" with ManU "sets the club on track" toward the £425M ($652M) annual revenue figure which Real Madrid became the first sports club to burst through, last year. The exchange rate, increasing the value of euros relative to sterling, "is the one factor which makes United’s pursuit of half a billion euros a year a tall order.'' The scale of deals, such as Aon "has exploded," under owners the Glazer family and Exec Vice-Chair Ed Woodward. Beneath the headline sponsorships "is a panoply of smaller deals involving scooter, soft drink, telecoms and even paint firms." ManU has opened an office in Hong Kong; a presence for the club on the east coast of the U.S. is planned, and "there could be more in Asia, Africa and/or the Middle East." The club’s challenge is "installing enough of the right calibre staff to secure and drive through these deals," which carry a 70% margin (INDEPENDENT, 4/9)

Russian gas producer Gazprom "has signed a new partnership deal with Volkswagen to become the exclusive fuel supplier for the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup" starting in May (MOTORSPORT TOTAL, 4/8). ... Germany-based furniture company Stechert Stahlrohrmöbel GmbH "revealed that it will not extend its naming-rights deal for the arena in Bamberg," home of Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) club Brose Baskets. The current deal is set to expire on Sept. 30 (MAIN POST, 4/8). ... Germany-based ice cream maker Nestlé Schöller and the O2 World Hamburg "will extend and intensify their partnership, which has been in place since the opening of the arena" in '02. The two parties "signed a new five-year deal" (MUSIK MARKT, 9/4). ... Head Sport has granted a license for socks and underwear to Dobotex, the Dutch specialty company for socks and other garments. The new partnership is effective from the beginning of next year and is set to cover all of Europe. Dobotex will develop a line of performance underwear and ski socks as well as socks for tennis (ISPO). ... Fast Retailing has added the first golfer to its portfolio of Uniqlo brand ambassadors by signing world No. 7 Adam Scott to a multi-year contract (Fast Retailing). ... The PGA of Australia has agreed to a deal with Choice Hotels as the naming-rights partner of the PGA Pro-Am Series. The national sponsorship is a first for Australian golf. The Choice Hotels PGA Pro-Am Series will encompass all pro-am events held across Australia from April 1 to Dec. 31 in a united series that will comprise of 200 events played at more than 160 courses (PGA of Australia). ... U.K. auto-enrollment pension provider NOW: Pensions has signed a four-year deal as the principal partner of Great Britain and England men's field hockey. As well as supporting the men’s hockey league, NOW: Pensions is also supporting Rush Hockey (NOW: Pensions). ... Yo2mo will sponsor Middlesex Country Cricket Club for the '13-14 season. The shirt sponsorship deal will be for the non-leading arm position of Middlesex's Yorkshire Bank 40 and Friends Life twenty20 playing kits (Yo2mo). ... Barclays has "tried to appeal to their asian consumers by revealing that perimeter advertising at Premier League stadiums will display the Barclays messaging in Chinese," viewable worldwide during April. The Chinese translation will convey the message "Barclays Bank sponsors of the Barclays Premier League" (ISPORTCONNECT, 4/9).