Volvo an Innovator in Sports Sponsorship

Article excerpt

GOTEBORG, Sweden - When the National Football League played its first exhibition game in continental Europe last month, it came to Goteborg, Sweden's leading industrial center and the headquarters town of A.B. Volvo, the game's sponsor.

The landing of an NFL game in a country where American football is still less popular than in other European nations underscored Volvo's position as an aggressive innovator in one of the trickiest fields of corporate promotion: sports sponsorship.

Over the past decade, Volvo's car sales in the United States have roughly doubled. To be sure, most of Volvo's increased sales can be credited to the company's cars and management and to shifting consumer tastes.

But Volvo executives insist that the increased name recognition derived from a 15-year-old sports sponsorship campaign, which until this summer has focused mostly on tennis, has also played a part.

Volvo persuaded the NFL to play in Sweden partly by putting up a financial guarantee of $2.5 million, insuring the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears that each would earn as much playing in Sweden as in an exhibition contest on its home field.

But to the NFL, Volvo's reputation for professionalism in sports sponsorship was important as well, according to Joe Rhein, the league's director of administration.

By all accounts, the game was a success. More than 33,000 fans showed up at Goteborg's Ullevi Stadium, more than 10,000 above the highest attendance at any soccer match this year, even though the price of tickets was twice that of soccer matches. And the game stirred Swedish interest in American football, which is the NFL's main objective in playing overseas.

For Volvo, staging the game is estimated to have cost $200,000 to $400,000, after subtracting from its expenses what it made on the European television rights and the gate receipts. In return, besides the good will of the community for generating roughly $17 million in tourist revenue, Volvo received plenty of exposure on American network television.

The game was broadcast live in the United States, and the company's distinctive blue and white banners adorned the stadium. …

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