x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sports sponsors are having a ball

Sports sponsorship is on course for a bumper year as the Volvo Ocean Race kicks off a series of high-profile international tournaments.

About 100,000 spectators are expected to have visited the purpose-built Destination Village during the Volvo Ocean Race's two-week stint in Abu Dhabi. Silvia Razgova / The National
About 100,000 spectators are expected to have visited the purpose-built Destination Village during the Volvo Ocean Race's two-week stint in Abu Dhabi. Silvia Razgova / The National

Sports sponsorship is on course for a bumper year with a series of high-profile international tournaments planned for the Emirates and around the world.

The Volvo Ocean Race, which concludes its Abu Dhabi leg today, is the start of a number of sponsored events in the UAE, including the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Experts say sponsoring companies should enjoy a jump in revenue as a result.

The Volvo Group, a commercial vehicles, construction and financing company, expects its sales to increase in the region thanks to its branding of the Ocean Race.

Anders Osberg, the chief financial officer of Volvo Group, said yesterday that the company "always" invested to see a financial return and tangible increase in sales.

"Of course, in the back of our minds there's a sense and comprehension that this will help and support our sales," he said. "It's very hard to quantify this in real numbers … It's more a matter of making sure that by owning this race we put a lot of value into this and we have a mix of our core values."

About 100,000 spectators are expected to have visited the purpose-built Destination Village during the Volvo Ocean Race's two-week stint in Abu Dhabi.

The Volvo Group and Volvo Cars are 50-50 owners of the Ocean Race, having bought the rights from the beverage company Whitbread in 1997.

Mr Osberg said the Volvo brand had a clearly dictated sponsorship made up of the Ocean Race and the Volvo Golf Champions, a tournament on the European Tour that debuted in Bahrain last year and has since moved to South Africa.

"For us, the Volvo Ocean Race represents a great deal of the core values in the group," Mr Osberg said. "It's what we stand for, a fighting spirit and trying to be number one. From that point of view, it fits our image very well."

Brian Greenwood, a managing partner for the Middle East and India at the sports marketing company Prism, estimates global sponsorship spending was US$2 billion (Dh7.34bn) last year and is likely to increase further this year with events such as the Uefa European Football Championship and the Olympics in London.

"Most companies will have a series of brand awareness versus sales metrics, and by measuring the impact of the sponsorship on awareness they can project the impact on sales," Mr Greenwood said.

Sports sponsorship experts say that despite being an international event, the Ocean Race is likely to benefit Volvo in greater brand awareness and sales, as the event is aimed at a Volvo demographic.

"The one thing about the Volvo Ocean Race is that it's an international event. It's a very targeted event," said Donal Kilalea, the chief executive of Promoseven Sports Marketing in the Middle East and Asia. "They certainly will be able to increase their exposure, but given that they are doing a lot of activations, they are allowing that target market to touch and feel their products."

Standard Chartered, which sponsors the Dubai Marathon taking place at the end of this month, says investment in sport is likely to increase this year in the region.

"There will be the same type of a commitment, if not more," said Marcus Bailey, Standard's regional head of corporate affairs.

The bank, which is based in the UK, has increased sponsorship in recent years, paying £80 million (Dh450.7m) to sponsor the shirts of Liverpool FC for four years.

This week, Dubai Duty Free extended its sponsorship of the Women's Tennis Association in a multimillion-dollar deal spanning three years. The airport retailer is also poised to benefit from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next month.

rjones@thenational.ae