Entering the arena: How brands use sports sponsoring to enter the German market
There are many possible ways of entering the German market with one’s brand or product. Among the many communication instruments, however, one stands out particularly due to its reach and versatility: sports sponsoring. The following text provides an overview of why this is the case and how it can be used to achieve one’s corporate goals.
Let’s think in clichés for a minute: above all, Germans distinguish themselves by their disciplined and calculating nature – similar to the Chinese mentality, by the way. A German works on time, carefully and only heads off home, when everything is done. From a business point of view, these are excellent qualities – one can always expect exceptionally good results from a German company. On the other hand: How can one grip an undercooled German emotionally bringing him closer to one’s brand or product? Thankfully, there is one clear answer: sport.
Sport sponsoring is the easiest and most powerful tool to enter new markets because it overcomes boundaries, reduces prejudices and connects people all over the globe. Sport delivers pure emotions and has the power to accelerate the trust into a brand in a tremendously fast way and place it into the supporters’ relevant set.
The Sponsorship of Opel for Borussia Dortmund for instance has increased the intention to purchase of people who are aware of the sponsorship from 10% up to 26%. Also, EVONIK increased their brand awareness from 29% to 63% within a period of eight years. HUAWEI, nowadays a global player brand, started its sponsorship with Borussia Dortmund in the 2013/2014 season with the goal of increasing brand awareness in the German market. Since HUAWEI was facing mayor competition with Samsung and Apple, it was a challenge to get the consumers’ attention and find points of differentiation. Yet, thanks to the BVB sponsorship they could increase the brand awareness from 18% up to 55% among Germans who are interested in football.
Germans love sports. As simple as it sounds, this acknowledgement is essential for potential sponsors. When a ball is in play, even the humorless German develops temperament and passion. This applies to both active and passive consumption. In 2018, around 21.6 million people in Germany over the age of 14 were particularly interested in sport, while a total of 26.7 stated at least moderate interest. During the same year, almost 24 million Germans were active in sports clubs – almost 30% of the total population. Even though evidence of an overweight male proportion can be identified, each age group and gender group is represented on the German sports market. On average, 20% of both the 0-6-year olds as well as the over 60-year olds actively participate in sports clubs. The largest share consists of the 7-14-year-old male group with over 80%. In addition, there are sporting activities such as swimming (exercised by 37% of the population), cycling (34%) or running (25%), which are usually exercised unorganized. This sector is diverse in many ways and offers sponsors multiple options for a potential market entry.
Of course, a sponsor who strives for the greatest possible media attention cannot avoid the football platform. On average, every single Bundesliga match day on Saturday, which is the most demanded broadcasting time, is watched by 1.45 million people on the main Bundesliga channel Sky, which equals roughly 28% of the channel´s total subscribers. An impressive number of 0,91 million views are counted in average when Dortmund is playing. For top encounters, audience rating peak at over 2 million viewers. Popular programs such as the ‚Sportschau‘, with 5.4 million viewers further boost the Bundesliga’s spread.
With 15,2 million followers on Facebook and 8 million on Instagram, Borussia Dortmund has one of the most powerful international appeals of all German sports brands. If one’s objective is to reach a (predominantly male) audience of millions in all age groups, football is the right choice.
Sponsors who especially value their brand fit will also find a solution to meet their objectives in Germany. Although not being able to keep up with the attention figures of the above-mentioned, some sports show great growth potential and stand out due to a high degree of authenticity for their individual characteristics. Trend sectors such as American Football or E-Sport provide the opportunity to build a successful long-term partnership and thrive within a largely unoccupied market. By representing certain elements they can function as key mouthpieces in order to position a brand in the aspired environment.
Meanwhile, Esports as a very technology-based sport is mainly suitable for addressing a well-educated group of adolescent people. This target group not only has an affinity for video games but embodies the modern ‚digital natives‘, who are constantly online and therefore highly receptive for online communication via Social Media and other channels.
However, not only long-term commitments are available on the market. It is not uncommon for the country to be hit by a wave of euphoria when a German team makes its mark on a major sports tournament. During Handball World Championships, the whole of Germany becomes feverish time and again. Sponsors who succeed in activating their partnership with such a popular event emerge from these few weeks as big winners. According to a survey by HORIZONT, LIDL, for example, achieved an unaided awareness level of 16% and a supported awareness level of 36% at the 2019 World Handball Championships due to its extensive measures as sponsor of the tournament as well as the German team.
Two years earlier, the DKB bank, who had already been the official naming sponsor of the first German handball league and premium partner of the German Handball Federation for several years, managed to present themeselves as innovators and saviors of German handball fans at the same time. As the first ever company to implement such a measure, DKB purchased the broadcasting rights of the tournament and provided livestreams of all the games in cooperation with Youtube. The result was 81 hours of live content, which, including commercials, reached a total playback time of 850 years. Together with over one million search queries for the DKB during the World Cup and considerable follower growth on social media, the advertising value of the campaign totalled 8 million euros.
Apart from the high attractiveness of the sports sponsoring market, Germany also provides appropriate economic conditions. With an average purchasing power of € 22,949, Germany ranked 8th out of a total of 42 countries in Europe in 2018. Taking into account the fact that Germany has the most inhabitants in Europe, it becomes clear that the purchasing power of Germans is among the highest on the continent. With private consumer spending totalling 1.78 billion euros and a gross domestic product of 3.39 trillion Euro, Germany leads the European comparison also in these categories, ahead of the United Kingdom and France respectively.
Overall, it can be stated that the German market has both the largest economic volume in Europe and a highly attractive sports sponsoring landscape and is therefore suitable for the entry of sponsors of all kinds.