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How effective are sporting sponsorships with automotive manufacturers?


How effective are sporting sponsorships with automotive manufacturers?

Sporting sponsorships prove to be popular with many automotive manufacturers, with the car industry now spending $1.285 billion on general sports. In the US alone, Volkswagen spend 55% of their sponsorship money on sport. Closer to home, Audi sponsor Bayern Munich football club and Chevrolet sponsor Manchester United. Sport sponsorship is almost tangible. Many automotive executives are collaborating with sporting events and sports clubs around the globe in return for their logos to be etched all over stadiums and apparel worn by recognisable athletes — and they trust that it is helping them sell more cars.

Figures suggest that automotive companies account for more than half of their sponsorship spend (64%) on sporting partnerships. Audi dealership, Vindis, explores how automotive manufacturers across the globe choose who to sponsor:

Volkswagen and UEFA

A partnership that is forecast to last up until 2022 was agreed between VW and UEFA back in 2017. The sponsorship agreement meant that Volkswagen was to be involved in all UEFA events from 2018 until 2022. Throughout the four-year contract, the UEFA will celebrate its 60th anniversary of the competition, and UEFA EURO 2020 will take place in 13 countries. During this time, Volkswagen will launch its new ID. — the e-mobility family — to use from 2020 onwards. A busy four years for both organisations, enhanced by each other’s partnerships.

UEFA is a brilliant opportunity for the VW brand to gain brand awareness and exposure on a global level at extremely popular sporting events. Speaking about the partnership with UEFA, the CEO of the Volkswagen brand, Dr. Herbet, said: “No other sport is as powerful as football or unites so many people. Furthermore, UEFA EURO 2020, which is being played across the entire continent, is a fantastic project. Our wish is to contribute towards building bridges between all countries and football fans with our mobility and creativity.”

Audi and international football

A partnership that was first established back in 2002, Audi and Bayern Munich football club recently agreed to extend its contract to June 2025. Audi is rumoured to be paying an estimated €10 million per year for the partnership, but that also includes an 8.8% share in the football club, and its logo printed on the kits of the Bayern Munich players.

Audi’s football sponsorships don’t stop with Bayern Munich though, with the German manufacturer also linked with Spanish clubs Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Real Madrid and Audi have been vehicle partners since 2003, which allows them to utilise advertising rights with the 33-time Spanish champions, whilst the FC Barcelona partnership has been in existence since 2006 and Barcelona football players, including Lionel Messi, have been driving Audi models ever since.


In 2017, BMW celebrated their 13th year running of sponsoring the championship golfing event with PGA. BMW has been the title sponsor for the event, and will continue to be for the 2018 championship event, too. The PGA championship tournament is one of the most recognised events in the world of professional golfing and a highlight on the European sporting calendar. BMW’s partnership with the golf event means the brand is featured alongside prestige brand, Rolex, and has been part of the success of many winning professional golfers such as Seve Ballesteros, Sir Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, and Ian Woosnam.

Using the sponsorship to their advantage, BMW also uses the event to reward its existing customers with exclusive benefits whilst visiting the tournament. This includes with exclusive complimentary onsite parking, access to the BMW Owners’ Lounge — where refreshments can be enjoyed whilst keeping up-to-date with ‘on-course’ action via live television coverage — free tea, coffee and water in the Owners’ Lounge, and exclusive access to the 14 th grandstand viewing area.

SEAT and the World Superbike Championship

In 2017, we saw a new partnership form between SEAT and the Dorna WSBK Organisation. The partnership was a sponsorship agreement that meant that the SEAT Leon CUPRA became the official safety car at the world’s fastest production based motorcycle event — the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship. The Leon CUPRA was perfect for the event, as it appealed to the audience who would appreciate the performance character of the model.

As a result, SEAT was to gain extensive global exposure, with their brand advertised on the event’s billboard displays around world circuits during every round in every country of the championship (13 races in 11 different countries on three continents in total). Additionally, the safety vehicle will be on the circuit throughout the warm-up lap of every race — an opportunity for the brand to be seen and show what the brand values.

Director of strategy, business development and operations at SEAT Sport, Antonino Labate, commented: “We are very pleased to partner with the Superbike championship with the Leon CUPRA as the official safety car as it gives us the ideal platform to demonstrate our model’s features and performance.”

Sporting sponsorships are without a doubt very popular with automotive manufacturers. Sport is watched worldwide by millions of people, meaning sponsorships almost guarantee huge exposure. In 2013, Infiniti became the title sponsor for Red Bull Racing in Formula One for an estimated $45.5 million a season.

“Formula One runs two-thirds of the year, it has 19 races and is watched by half a billion people around the world,” says Vincent Gillet, vice-president for global marketing at Infiniti. “As a brand which has performance at its core, there are few platforms with which we can showcase that at a global level.”

Because sporting events are watched by such a large engaging audience, it is difficult to get the same level of exposure by sponsoring causes, festivals, entertainment, etc. Sporting events almost guarantee you significant exposure and brand awareness worldwide — especially football, Olympics and golf, which currently acquire half of the automotive sponsorship spend, and with football being the world’s number one sport by a significant amount, it comes as no surprise that football clubs, both national and international, are top of the list for many automotive sponsors. Securing a sponsorship partnership with sports that match brand image and target demographics, as well as acquire rights that provide exposure and activation opportunities in their key markets is crucial to success! And this is why big brands such as Audi, VW and BMW use the strategy.




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