(ATR) ŠKODA AUTO is the official main sponsor of the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship for an unprecedented 27th consecutive year.
The ŠKODA logo features in the face-off circle at center ice (ATR)
The Czech automobile manufacturer and the IIHF extend their record for the longest title sponsorship of a world championship in any sport. The 2019 hockey tournament is ongoing in Slovakia, eight years since it was also held in Bratislava and Kosice.
ŠKODA began its longstanding relationship with the hockey federation as mobility partner in 1992, before ascending to title sponsor in 1993. The 27-year title sponsorship is officially recognized as a Guinness World Record.
“The main part of what is actually coming out of our wallets is brand value,“ said Christian Philipp, ŠKODA's global head of experience marketing, about the corporate partnership. “We are being perceived as a family brand anyway with our cars, models and products, and this sport really fits to the brand.
“There is no need to change this sport and the relationship is so strong,” Philipp said, noting that the automotive company’s home markets of the Czech Republic and Slovakia are “very addicted to hockey".
Philipp notes that ŠKODA also collaborates with the national ice hockey federations of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, Germany and Sweden.
International Ice Hockey Federation secretary general Horst Lichtner said that the two organizations have a “partnership that is growing together".
ŠKODA cars prominently displayed at the arena in Kosice, an IIHF innovation (ATR)
“The pace of growing together is really in-line with each other and this is why every three or four years it is a challenge with the new contract, but we come to the conclusion that we still fit because we have grown together,” Lichtner said.
He notes that in 1994 ŠKODA sold 172,000 cars per year and in 2018 it has risen to 1.3 million vehicles. In parallel, the IIHF world championship reached a TV audience of 180 million in 1994 and in it grew to 1.3 billion in 2018.
Lichtner – the secretary general of the IIHF since 2006 – outlined four primary reasons as to why he believes the partnership has thrived for nearly three decades.
The German hockey executive said that in addition to successfully growing together, the hockey fan demographic is a natural fit with the Czech car brand, the time of year of the hockey season and world championship is ideal for the automaker which devotes sponsorship money to the Tour de France and other cycling events over the summer months, and lastly, the federation offers a value incentive package to the brand.
As an example, Lichtner points out that two ŠKODA models are prominently on display in the lower bowls on opposite sides of two arenas. He said it is a concept developed by the IIHF that maximizes visibility and exposure and has been copied by the tennis federation with Porsche and biathlon with BMW.
ŠKODA cars and cheerleaders outside the Steel Arena in Kosice (ATR)
The contract between ŠKODA and the IIHF runs through 2021
“This is a package that is renewed again, again and again, and I hope it will continue,” Lichtner said.
ŠKODA is providing the 2019 hockey organizers with a fleet of 50 vehicles during the championship.
On May 23, on the day of the quarterfinals, for the first time during the nearly three-decade partnership, ŠKODA will be presenting a new model – a modernized ŠKODA Superb.
ŠKODA’s activation strategy at the two venues offers fans the chance to suit up as a goalie and stop pucks, play air hockey and pose for photos alongside ŠKODA vehicles and cheerleaders.
“This is a very important point in our contract with ŠKODA,” Lichtner said.
ŠKODA is the best-selling car brand in the host country Slovakia. In 2018, the manufacturer delivered 21,900 vehicles to customers in the region, with the highest selling models being the Fabia, Octavia and Rapid.
Sweden is seeking its third consecutive title at the 17-day world championship, which concludes with the gold and bronze medal contests on Sunday, May 26.
Written and reported by Brian Pinelli in Kosice, Slovakia
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