At most sports industry conferences, the temptation is to seek out the big names and major international players rather than the local sports, agency or corporate brands that largely populate the event.
At SpoBis, German sports industry practitioners were out in force and themselves paid close attention to the narratives and strategies presented by the likes of the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, WME-IMG and the UFC.
But the event’s reason for being is to create a forum where the national industry can meet, network and learn. On the second day of the conference, a series of presentations away from the more international sessions, themed ‘Sponsorship and Retail’ demonstrated just how coherent, strong and integral to sports the German sponsorship market really is.
Michael Stoschek, billionaire chairman of car parts company Brose Fahrzeugteile, explained why he had bought the Brose Bamberg basketball club and put the company’s name on the club even though the Brose brand is largely invisible to consumers - its business being to supply car parts to major German carmakers.
The sponsorship works on many levels, he said, not least as a recruiting and retention tool for its 25,000 employees and a base for internal and external client hospitality in a sport where Brose can take a dominant position, all the while building the reputation of the Bavarian town of Bamberg, close to Brose’s headquarters. The club has won the national championship eight times, including last year’s title.
The consumer electronic retail brand Media Markt was similarly focused on local and national gains, this time through second-tier sponsorship deals with a number of Bundesliga clubs across the top three leagues and main shirt sponsorship of its home-town club, Ingolstadt in 1. Bundesliga (see image above).
Its choice of clubs was not based on maximising visibility on LED boards nationally, but on proximity to its main retail centres regionally, said Dominik Durben, Media Markt's head of sponsoring. Indeed, the LED boards were used not just for brand visibility, but to inform fans about up-coming sales or new products. The impact of the multi-club sponsorship’s first year has been positive across a number of metrics, including brand sympathy, image and relevance, a measurement exercise the brand does twice per year.
The connection between local businesses and sports clubs is ever present in sponsorship. One sponsor of 1. Bundesliga club Hoffenheim said that the club’s ownership by SAP co-founder Dietmar Hopp was important to the deal, but the club’s location in an area rich in software and engineering firms, was also influential - and this was from an online betting operator.
Sure, Austrian-owned energy drink brand Red Bull’s ownership of RB Leipzig has ruffled a few feathers in a country which values the traditional nature is of its sports clubs, but there is also begrudging admiration from some in the industry for Red Bull’s ability to get around club membership and corporate branding rules in the Bundesliga. The RB, in RB Leipzig sums it up: its means RasenBallsport, which translates as ‘Grass-field Ballsport’. Obviously.