Rewind to the 65th minute of the UEFA EURO 2016 opener between host nation France and Romania in Paris. French hearts sank momentarily when Bogdan Stancu scored a penalty to level the match at 1-1, but for a certain David He, General Manager of Hisense France, it was a moment of mixed emotions.
For David, seeing his company’s branding boldly displayed on the perimeter advertising boards at the Stade de France when Stancu slotted past Hugo Lloris was the coronation of many months of preparation and hard work.
“We were pleased that France was leading because it is host of the tournament and the further France goes, the more domestic interest there will be,” David told GlobalSportsJobs. “But at the same time, when Romania equalised we were very excited to see the Hisense logo displayed behind the goal.
“France, of course went on to win the opening game and I think the fans around the world enjoyed the match and the spectacle, but for us at Hisense, the most important thing was that we presented our brand on the European stage.”
Hisense is the first Chinese company to sponsor a European Championship in the tournament’s 56-year history and David is experiencing first-hand how much awareness is being generated by this landmark partnership: “In China, Hisense is a household name. It’s the number one TV brand. In Europe, though, brand awareness is much lower. If you ask people in the street, they have never heard of Hisense.
“Investing in sports sponsorship is a great way to showcase Hisense products and let consumers know that there is a valid, reliable, hi-tech alternative to other TV brands. We have already noticed a significant return on investment, even before the tournament started. In the first five months of this year we have experienced four times the amount of growth in the same period last year.”
Hisense is no stranger to sports sponsorship. It is team supplier to Red Bull Racing and title sponsor of the NASCAR Xfinity Series. It is also official sponsor of the Australian Open with naming rights to the Hisense Arena, and official premium partner of Bundesliga side FC Schalke 04 with supply rights to the Veltins Arena. With UEFA EURO 2016 added to this impressive portfolio, what are the key challenges for Hisense’s marketing staff?
“The main challenge for us at Hisense France is that we have only had a presence in France for two years, so we have had to organise and activate the EURO 2016 sponsorship in France in a very short time. But with support from the experienced marketing departments of Hisense Group in China, Hisense International and Hisense Europe, we have been able to build a very good structure of well over 100 people to activate.
“We also have a dedicated PR company from the UK and they are helping us with communication and activation in the various fan zones. All in all, our team is working very efficiently because we are combining the strength and knowhow of both global and local teams.”
On-ground consumer activation is a key element of any sponsorship in sport and Hisense have been pulling out all the stops to make sure their brand is remembered by football fans long after the curtain falls on UEFA EURO 2016.
“We will distribute more than half a million gifts in 10 stadiums during the 51 matches – a huge task for the team of Hisense ‘fan girls’ who were selected in China prior to the tournament,” explained David. “We have Hisense big screens in all the fan zones at the tournament venues. We have organised activities with EURO 2016 ambassadors, we are running special promotions for consumers all over Europe and we have arranged hospitality at matches for clients, buyers and retailers.”
As presenting partner of EURO 2016 score updates on TV, the Hisense brand has entered the homes of sports fans worldwide, including hundreds of millions in China. “We have seen a tremendous engagement on multiple social media channels globally, including Weibo and WeChat, particularly from major influencers in key markets. The Chinese market feel very proud to see one of its homegrown brands associated with the European Championship for the first time in 56 years and I’m sure that in the future there will be more Chinese brands sponsoring major sports events,” explained David.
Hisense will continue its relationship with UEFA beyond EURO 2016, with sponsorship agreements in place for the European Qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, UEFA Futsal EURO 2016, the 2017 UEFA European U21 Championship and UEFA Women’s EURO 2017.
“As we develop our sponsorship portfolio in Europe we will need to expand our marketing and activation departments,” said David. “We already have a large team, but we are always on the lookout for talented individuals who are familiar with how UEFA and FIFA events are run and how other global brands activate their sponsorships, and who can add expertise and experience to help us promote the Hisense brand more efficiently.”
In the meantime, though, how will David react if the moment the winning goal is scored at the EURO 2016 final coincides with a Hisense LED slot? “It would be absolutely fantastic,” he said. “It would mark the perfect finish to what has been an incredible journey for us.”
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