Why Do BMW, AUDI & VW Sponsor Sports? That is a great question… and people may often wonder why they do it. It has happened again just a few days ago at work.

Obviously, as a sport marketing agency, we talk a lot about the sport sponsorship scenario and, at first sight, it could appear strange that those car manufacturers -already heavily involved in motorsports- are also sponsoring disciplines that are not directly linked to the four wheels.

The Reason Why

BMW, AUDI & VW Sponsor Sports because, like many big companies in the world, they understand that the most efficient way to get to their customers is to link their brands to an activity that their customers like. This is my answer, and the following few lines will explain why I believe this can be true.

Motorsports are exciting and fun but there are plenty of people that do not love it. Nonetheless, the same people that do not like motorsport could well be using a car, and buy one, every now and again.

So, what do these people that do not like motorsport like or care about? Is it some other sports? A social cause? Art or ballet?

What should the car manufacturers do in order to become the people’s favorite brand and be their first choice when it is time to buy a car?

It is an easy question to answer; they should do what BMW, Audi, VW, Chevrolet, Porsche, GM, Nissan, Renault, Kia, Hyundai, Dacia, Toyota, Mercedes and Lexus -just to name a few- are doing.

They should sponsor an activity, a team, a cause which can build an emotional relationship between them and the target – via the association to such an activity.

The emotional link created by the association (sport team – brand) will therefore develop, given a certain length of time, into a brand preference that will lead to purchase intention.

Why Sport then? Because it is Simple and Fun

Sports are very often used because they are simple and inclusive, rules are the same all over the world, so it is easy to understand for everyone. We can well say that sport is a common transversal language that can be used in different locations notwithstanding culture, class, religion, and Ethnicity. All those traits are very useful and important for big companies that have an international market to deal with and the necessity to communicate in the most coherent, straightforward and efficient possible way.

Different Sports, Different Values, Different Targets

Any and each sport is different, they all have different values, some are perceived as being accessible, some others are international, technological, exciting, fun; most of them represent well team work, resilience, quest for perfection. But what is the right sport for your brand? What are the right sport sponsorship opportunities to look into?
Audi, BMW and VW decided to sponsor various activities in order to make sure to talk to their different targets while being coherent with the different values of the brands.

So in the last few years these three giants were sponsor of the Olympics, winter sports, football, basket, tennis, golf, sailing, cricket, baseball, ice hockey, cycling, rugby, polo, badminton, marathon, horseracing and so on.

Therefore it is not far from the truth to say that there is no single sport in the world that has not benefitted from sponsorship from car producers.

Here is a Selection of Sponsorship Activities that BMW, Audi and VW Implemented in the Last few Years.

Audi

  • Football with highly visible and prestigious clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and A.C Milan.
  • Winter sports. Audi is one of the biggest sponsor of the FIS and has partnered with the Ski World Cup and World Championships as well as with the German, Swiss, Finnish and Austrian national ski federations.
  • Sailing, the Medcup, the Tron Series and the Melges 20 sailing boat
  • Golf: The Audi Quattro Cup is a major event directly owned by Audi. It is the largest amateur event in the world with more than 100,000 golfers participating.
  • Tennis: Indian Wells Open, California.
  • From 2018 Audi entered the world of E Sports, Snowboard and MTB.
  • Other disciplines are American Football and Marathon.

Volkswagen

Contrary to Audi, Volkswagen have been focusing mainly on soccer, with a massive presence in Germany.

  • VW owns and sponsor VFL Wolfsburg, as the team is based in the company’s hometown.
    Volkswagen is not only the VFL’s main sponsor but they also benefit from the stadium naming rights.
    The brand also partners Germany’s main knock-out competition, DFB Polkal and support Schalke, Weder Bremen, Hannover 96 and RB Leipzig.
  • Outside Germany VW have a deal with the French national soccer team and had a similar, association with the Argentinian team.
  • Volkswagen is huge in Brazil, and has had a deal with Neymar. in Brazil it has sponsorships deals with several soccer clubs, although its association with the national governing body, the CBF, ended in 2014.
  • In China FAWVolkswagen has a major $20m per year deal with the Chinese Basketball.
  • From 2018 VW sponsors the German national Football team and in 2019 signed a four years deal with The US soccer team .

BMW

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  • After a major involvement with the London Olympics in 2012 BMW has focused mainly on golf.
    Among the most important tournaments backed by BMW is the European PGA Championship, which the company has title-sponsored since 2005, the partnership will continue till the 2022.
    BMW is also a major sponsor of the Europe’s Ryder Cup team and has title rights to the BMW Championship in the USA, the Golf Cup International (the world’s largest amateur series), the Masters in China and the BMW International Open in Germany which has been confirmed till 2022 as well. BMW will be Worldwide Partner of the next two Ryder Cups in 2020 and 2022.
  • In the past BMW has been involved in sailing with a huge operation linked to the America’s Cup. The Boat BMW Oracle won the trophy in 2010 in Valencia.
  • BMW was sponsor of the Rugby French Federation and in 2017 started to sponsor ESports. In 2020 BMW decided to allocate a big part of the budget, looking for the car buyers of the future, in E sports and linked its brand to 5 Organizations Cloud9 in the USA,  Fnatic in the UK, FunPlus Phoenix

in China, G2 Esports in Germany and T1 in Korea.

Using Sponsorship to get Noticed

As seen Car Makers use sponsorship extensively and it is foreseeable that this trend is going to stay.

Nowadays people are used to buy services in order to avoid advertising. The success of Netflix and Spotify, just to make an example, is there to remind us that winning the attention of the people is very difficult.

So instead of trying to “buy” the attention of the target interrupting what it is doing, the very marketing savvy Car makers are using sponsorship to get noticed touching it when it is doing or watching what it likes and it is passionate for, embedding their brand to the event itself.

Nowadays passion is becoming the most relevant and effective business driver of them all.

Author Bio – Riccardo Tafà was born in Gulianova, graduated in Law at the University of Bologna and then decided to follow his deep passion for sport. After attending the ISFORP (public relations training institute) in Milan he moved to England, where he began his career in PR, first at MSP Communication and then at Counsel Limited in London. Soon after that, he moved to SDC, a Belgian outfit headed by Jean Paul Libert and started working with motorsport: the year is 1991. Following a brief transition to Monaco, where he flanked the owner of Pro COM, a sports marketing agency founded by Nelson Piquet, he returned to Italy and began working in first person as RTR, first consulting firm and then sports marketing company.

In 2001 RTR wins the ESCA award for the implementation of the best MKTG sports project in Italy in the year 2000. RTR also obtains the highest score among all the categories and represents Italy in the European Esca Contest. Over the years he gets some satisfactions and swallows some bitter pills. But he is still here, he writes in a disillusioned and simple way, with the goal of providing practical advice and food for thought