At the invitation of Vallon Relations & Coaching GmbH, a high-profile panel discussion took place at Mooncity Vienna on Kärntner Straße in Vienna. The theme of the evening was "From sponsorship strategy to brand positioning and brand management." Among the participants were representatives from A1, Volksbank, Wiener Austria, and Snowsports Academy.
The evening began with a conversation between host Dr. Ralph Vallon and Dr. Wolfgang Hötschl, a business coach and member of the Manner supervisory board. The latter shared his philosophy on sponsorship, stating, "I follow Warren Buffet's advice: Don't invest in a stock if you're not willing to hold it for 10 years. Translated to sponsorship, it means don't sponsor anything that you're not willing to support for 10 years." Hötschl also has a strong connection to sports. During his 24 years as CEO at Kelly's, he established successful ice hockey partnerships for the snack giant, including with the Vienna Capitals. Currently, skiers are the focus of Manner's sponsorship activities.
The first point of discussion during the panel was the situation in the ski sport industry. "Even though the ski industry is recovering after the years of the pandemic, it is not financially strong enough to sponsor major events. Therefore, organizers rely on external sponsors," reported Martin Dolezal, CEO of Snowsports GmbH, responsible for the training of 3,000 ski and snowboard instructors. Dolezal echoed Hötschl's sentiments, saying, "For success, it is crucial to have partnerships on an equal footing that last at least five years to establish a noticeable identity."
Marco Harfmann, Director of Marketing Communications at A1 Telekom Austria, shared practical examples of such partnerships. "We recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of our partnership with the Austrian Ski Association (ÖSV). In general, emotions are crucial in our sports-related engagements because our product is not tangible. In sports, winning is important, and that aligns with our philosophy. Additionally, skiing is about speed, just like our technology."
Another participant in the discussion confirmed A1's sustainable involvement in other areas. Mag. Reinhard Lischka, Tournament Director of the ACTS Group and responsible for the annual beach volleyball highlights, formerly in Klagenfurt and since 2017 in Vienna, said, "Our cooperation started in 1998, initially with BeFree and Aon. A1 has been our partner since 2001." Lischka emphasized the need for constant evolution, stating, "This year, for the A1 Beach Volleyball European Championships, we are completely revamping our VIP area. It will be vibrant and eye-catching."
Women's sports, diversity, inclusion
Being up to date is also essential for football clubs, explained Mag. Johannes Dobretsberger, Head of Marketing & Sales at FK Austria Wien. "Football is a highly dynamic environment, but I see great opportunities and potential for innovation. With our academy, youth teams, women's team, and focus on diversity and inclusion for people with special needs, we want to send positive messages to our sponsors." Another important aspect Dobretsberger mentioned was, "We have made an investment with the Generali Arena that brings us commitments. Therefore, we want to use it more, for example, by hosting the Vienna Vikings from American football. The stadium is a place of encounter."
KR Sabrina Oswald, Managing Director of the agency Futura, highlighted the diverse opportunities in sports sponsorship for smaller companies. Futura specializes in brand storytelling, positioning, and marketing. Oswald pointed out that sports sponsorship is no longer solely about success or failure but also encompasses important social issues such as racism, as seen in incidents involving Real Madrid star Vinicius Jr. in the Spanish La Liga, and topics like transgender inclusion in athletics. She emphasized that companies can position themselves in a stylish and smart manner within these areas, including the broad theme of Sustainable Development Goals.
Lastly, KR Wolfgang Layr, Director of Volksbank Wien, shared his company's long-term commitments in sports, connecting with some of the previously mentioned points. Volksbank Wien has been involved in beach volleyball for 22 years and ski jumping for 16 years, continuously integrating these activities. Layr mentioned a memorable event where Andreas Goldberger flew across Lake Wörthersee on a zip line during a tournament in Klagenfurt. Layr expressed his satisfaction with the fact that 30% of their advertising value in ski jumping now comes from the women's team, a development that was unimaginable a few years ago.
Photos: © leadersnet.at / C. Mikes