German telecoms company Deutsche Telekom has been a fixture in the sports sponsorship world for more than two decades. From Team Tekekom's magenta-colored equipe in the Tour de France to its title sponsorship of Germany's biggest football club, Bayern Munich, the Bonn-based company has turned to sports to market its brands. Deutsche Telekom Sports Marketing Head HENNING STIEGENROTH recently spoke with SBD Global about the company's strategy in signing sports sponsorship deals and its focus on football.
Q: What is the Deutsche Telekom’s strategy when it decides on a possible sports sponsorship?
Henning Stiegenroth: First of all we have to define our goals -- who do we want to reach and what do we want to accomplish in the target audience. Then we take a look at the media relevance and reach of the individual sport. In Germany, this task is much easier than let’s say in America. Germany is pretty much mono-focused on football, whereas other counties have a number of relvant sports. It is also important to us that if we enter a sports sponsorship, we have some kind of a dominant position. This means we really want to be recognized and not just scramble around a little bit, which is sometimes a little difficult. In addition, we set ourselves a strategic direction. We've set certain core themes that are, among others, sport with an emphasis on football and music. Our sponsorship deals should as much as possible fit those themes, but of course we also leave room for exceptions. Overall, we try to follow those core themes on an international scope, except in the U.S., where different sports are more relevant than in Europe.
Q: You just talked about target audiences. What is the Deutsche Telekom’s target audience?
Stiegenroth: Football caters to a mass market that we serve with our brand through our home phone and mobile phone products. With football we can basically reach everybody that we ultimately want to reach in the specific interest area. If we take a look at our mobile phone sector, then we want to reach a younger audience between 20-30 years of age. In that case, basketball can be a tool to target this audience and reach it even better, which we do with our deals with the Telekom Baskets [Bonn] and Bayern Munich Basketball.
Q: What are the goals of Telekom’s sports sponsorship deals? Is it simply increased phone sales?
Stiegenroth: Well yes, that’s an overriding goal that you want realize in the long-term. First, we want to achieve image and awareness goals. But for us, it is mainly about image and less about awareness. Nevertheless, the partnership has to be recognizable, otherwise it doen't affect the brand image. We want to transfer the excellent image of our sponsor partners to our brands. In addition, it is about product communication, which means we have the opportunity to involve our products and extend our campaigns. And in the end it’s certainly about sales goals. We obviously want to sell our products.
Q: In Germany, Telekom’s most important sports sponsorship deals are arguably the title sponsorship of Bundesliga club Bayern Munich and Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) side Telekom Baskets Bonn. What makes those two deals special?
Stiegenroth: In football, we don't only sponsor Bayern Munich, but also the German national team, which is a sort of sympathy bearer, and also adds exposure over the summer time when there is no Bundesliga football but Euros, World Cups or even international friendlies. It is a nice little addition that adds an additional target audience that doesn’t watch or care about Bundesliga football. We also have partnerships with other Bundesliga teams such as Hamburg SV, Borussia Dortmund and VfB Stuttgart that are supporting product campaigns or sales activities and provide us with additional presence in the north, west and south of Germany. However, our flagship deal is Bayern Munich. Then we have the Telekom Baskets that in addition to all the other goals fulfill a location responsibility (Deutsche Telekom’s headquarters are located in Bonn) to engage employees, who love to go to games. We also have a deal with Bayern Munich Basketball because we can reach another audience, and it is fitting as the title sponsor of the club’s football team.
Q: What new sponsorship deals is the Deutsche Telekom working on?
Stiegenroth: Currently, we aren’t planning something completely different or changing our direction. We actually say that we want to fill our current direction with more life on an international scale, while not setting strict rules for the various countries. It is obvious that different sports are simply more relevant in different countries. However, we want to have a consistent brand appearance, and therefore it is important to follow a clear strategy. But currently we don’t have any plans to engage in new deals or to head down a completely different path.
Q: How closely do you watch the sports sponsorship activities of your competitors such as O2, Vodafone, AT&T, Verizon, etc.?
Stiegenroth: We do it very vigorously because we want to differentiate ourselves or sometimes catch up. For example, Vodafone was involved in the Champions League in the past, then they dropped out of football and entered F1, which they will leave at the end of the season. It is interesting for us to see what they will do next. It has always been important to us to set ourselves apart. Therefore, we decided to focus on football in Germany because we have a dominant role in it and Vodafone and O2 are practically irrelevant. To know what your competition is doing is absolutely critical. You have to make sure that you keep your dominant position in the areas you are in.