Continental Tyres are major sponsors of women’s football. Here Guy Frobisher, Head of Marketing for the UK, Ireland and the Nodics, explains the attraction of the women’s game to companies like his.
Why sponsor women’s football? It’s a nice clean piece of paper. An uncluttered territory.
The issue with men’s football is the sheer number of brands invited to be involved. So you have player sponsors, club sponsors, league sponsors, national team sponsors and then you have the individual players’ rights, too.
Plus I think it’s a lot easier to look up to women in sport. Because the honesty is in the eyes. The trust is naturally there. Women’s sport is not seen as a chase for the dollar. It’s still in the growing phase; it’s not cashing out. The participants are genuine.
Look at the final weekend of the Women’s Super League season, the joy on the Chelsea players’ faces was clear for all to see. They were so close to winning the title last year. You could tell they were not motivated by money, they were motivated by a sheer desire to win and overcome the heartache from last year. That is sport at its very best. I had the same feeling when I watched the Lionesses play at the World Cup in Canada.
We had done some very interesting videos with the players beforehand. I knew the players had faced challenges to reach that point in their careers, but the films really hammered these home and I found them particularly moving. That’s what made the team so fascinating as a group and made their fantastic achievement in finishing third all the more special.
I felt something similar about the GB women’s cycling team at London 2012, too. Maybe I felt particularly interested because Conti also produce bicycle and motorcycle tyres, but I watched with great fascination. It was so exciting – specifically the women. More so than the men. I thought they were the face of the nation with the excitement, effort and endeavour they produced. They were elite, professional athletes at work doing their very best.
We appreciate women’s sport because we’re in business. We want people to buy our tyres. And, unfortunately, tyres are a very poorly thought-of product. People see them as black and round. Very few see them in any differently. I’ve lived with that fact for 28 years at the company. So sport is a communication platform that engages people. That explains why our football heritage is deep.
In 1995 we were one of the inaugural sponsors of the UEFA Champions League along with Sony, Amstel and Ford. We were a partner for five years and if you ask most people they think we still sponsor the Champions League. I feel a little bit sorry for the other sponsors. But it show the power of being there first.
It was very useful for us in both the European and Asian markets but, of course, in five years it grew and grew and grew like Topsy. I’ll be honest, it became so big it outstripped our ability to keep up with it. The price was tripled and the number of sponsors was doubled. So we had half the visibility for three times the money. At that point, we said: “OK, Champions League, no thanks.”
Instead we became involved in the FIFA World Cup, first in Germany, most recently in Brazil, and we also sponsor the UEFA European Championships, including the one to be held in France next year. But in 2011 came the move towards women’s sport when a FIFA property we developed called ‘The Conti Warm-Up’ – a pre-match training exercise – put us on the radar of the FA.
We wanted to reach the grassroots. People – passion-rich, time-poor – like mums, dads, teachers, coaches, aunts, uncles. That brought us into partnership with the FA Women’s Super League and the England national team, as well as St. George’s Park National Football Centre. Since then we have also became partners with the FA in Ireland, supporting their national team and the national league. This is not a short-term strategy. This is not a quick buck.
Women are great communicators – with detail – rather than at a surface level. They are fantastic ambassadors. We invited two top Irish footballers, Julie-Ann Russell and Aine O’Gorman, to drive some nice cars on our test track to see the difference good tyres could make to safety and performance. They really enjoyed it and said they learnt a lot. But from a business point of view, young drivers are going to be impressed by and take more notice of someone they trust, like a sportswoman.
That’s partly why, in the commercial world, women’s sport is gaining popularity and enthusiasm at such a pace. I watch women’s football. I know. The quality is outrageously good. I’ve seen goals, saves, passes, tackles which you can say is great football – regardless of whether it’s played by men or women. That’s the point we have now reached and Continental are here for the long term.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Guy Frobisher is Head of Marketing for Continental Tyres (UK, Ireland and the Nordics). A keen sportsman, Guy would classify himself as a lover of watching sport rather than playing. A supporter of both rugby union (London Irish) and football (Tottenham), Guy has worked for Continental, a global automotive company and manufacturer of premium quality tyres, for nearly 30 years. The majority of this time has been within marketing. Having recently taken on responsibility for the Nordic region his knowledge of ice hockey and alpine skiing is improving daily, as well has his ability to politely smile whenever Thomas Brolin is mentioned in Sweden.
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