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Why Huawei is investing big money in soccer?

Thursday, 13 Aug 2015 17:30   |   By Soccerex, edited by He Lanying

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Huawei is a relative newcomer to the sports sponsorship market, but a host of soccer partnerships in the past couple of years have seen the Chinese telecoms company bulk out its portfolio in a bid to raise its global brand awareness in a congested market.

Since 2012, the company has signed agreements with Spain’s Professional Football League (LFP) and club side Atlético Madrid, the Russian national soccer team, German clubs Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04, Premier League side Arsenal FC, French champions Paris Saint-Germain and Dutch Eredivisie giants Ajax, among others.

This year the company’s soccer sponsorship activities have not let up. Deals with Norwegian club Vålerenga Fotball AS and Portuguese Primeira Liga side SL Benfica were signed in February, followed shortly after by agreements with the Panamanian Football Association and Colombia’s 2014 Fifa World Cup sensation James Rodriguez.

Nick Wiggins, Huawei’s vice president of partnerships, including sponsorships and media, gives an insight into the company’s increasing focus on soccer.

How big is Huawei’s marketing budget and what proportion of that goes on sponsorship acquisition and activation?

The indication that I can give is that we know we are a new brand – relatively – in this space, and we are investing heavily in raising our awareness. We were one of the first Chinese brands to enter the Interbrand top 100 brands list at the end of last year, so I think that’s a good indication as to how our marketing activity has been successful in driving brand awareness.

With regards sports sponsorship, we have more than 830 properties worldwide that we invest in and soccer is by far the main area of focus. As you can see from a look at the European engagement, we have driven association with challenger soccer club brands in local markets by our own definition.

Globally we focus on sports sponsorship. Other assets include our rugby association, including the likes of the Canberra Raiders in Australia. In India we sponsor the Bangalore cricket club. We’re on the shirts of Santos in Brazil, and also Galatasaray in Turkey.

How does the sponsorship process work in terms of autonomy to the regions? Where is the nerve centre of where these decisions are made?

Sponsorship decisions are driven from global, which is from our global headquarters in Shenzen in China and the regional hubs feed into that process. Obviously in Europe we have a clear football strategy to associate ourselves with clubs that are challenging for that number one spot in top leagues, those clubs that typically have a strong fanbase and are aspiring to be number one, like our company.

What type of activations do you do? Do these differ from property to property?

In Europe we’re particularly focused on club sponsorship activity and the majority of the assets that we secure with those clubs are activated locally. However there is always an opportunity to drive an association between our brand and soccer generally. One example of improving the association between Huawei and soccer is the Huawei team ranking initiative. We worked closely with goal.com and Opta to develop something called the Huawei team ranking, which is a virtual league table of all the clubs across Europe enabling the online user to rank these clubs according to certain soccer statistical criteria, like shots, clean sheets, passing. We worked closely with Perform to develop that consumer tool and it has generated a lot of great facts and snippets of information that soccer fans have found interesting, comparing the performance of their team in their market with other clubs in other markets.

We’ve used this solution to drive awareness through digital channels. We’ve focused attention on creating content out of this vehicle and used Twitter and Facebook to promote it.

Are there any conscious models or inspirations that you’re drawing from, looking around the world of sport and marketing?

What we recognise is that as a brand we’re relatively new to having a consumer facing proposition. We’re very interested in working with co-sponsors of the clubs that we work with on joint marketing activity. I think we feel we can complement the marketing activity of other brands that are co-sponsors of the various clubs we sponsor. There are live discussions going on that are ongoing and that we’re excited about.

What can we expect to see from your department at Huawei over the next 12 months, and what are your plans for the long term?

I think you’ll see more effort in activation of soccer from Huawei from a global perspective. The trend is towards multi-club deals within market, and as you can see from the shirt sponsorship deals done with Galatasaray and Santos, that seems to be paying dividends with regards awareness generation in those regions. We’re committed to sports sponsorship and in particular soccer sponsorship activation. We know that soccer is a very passionate, emotional area.

Taken from Soccerex

Tags: Huawei,

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