Audi, just like Longines, have been a trusted partner of the International Ski Federation (FIS) for years. The 2017/2018 season marks the 16th annual campaign with Audi as the title sponsor of the FIS Ski World Cup.
White Season had an opportunity to speak with Thomas Glas, Head of Audi Sport Marketing, to find out more about the Ingolstadt, Germany-based auto brand’s strategy for sports and, specifically, about its involvement in skiing. Glas, 37-year-old former football player, assumed his current role in 2014, after serving in various positions with Audi since 2007. The Ingolstadt native is a keen skier himself, even though he had to take a break from the sport during his own professional career. Glas still tries to ski as much as his busy schedule permits, mostly frequenting the resorts in the Munich and Kitzbühel area.
Broad-based engagement in sport
“Fundamentally, our sport marketing strategy seeks to transport emotions using different sports and different channels as our messaging platform,” outlines Glas. “Besides skiing, our strategy incorporates a number of sports including football, where we partner with premier international clubs, such as Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but also have our proprietary Audi Cup as a significant own platform. In golf, our commitment is centred on the Audi quattro Cup, the world’s largest amateur tournament with more than 120,000 annual participants. We also work with sailing and have various regional engagements.” Audi’s partnership with skiing is broad, extending from ski racing to ski cross, free riding and the three FIS Nordic disciplines. Vertically, Audi’s commitment ranges from the elite levels to young talents and grass-roots skiing, currently comprising sponsorship of sixteen national ski teams and presence in many top ski resorts (“Lands of quattro”). “Qualitatively, football and skiing are our most important sport partnerships,” says Thomas Glas.
Skiing as showcase of quattro four-wheel drive
Audi’s presence in winter sports is focused on its all-terrain permanent quattro four-wheel drive that is at its best on snow and ice. “The connection between skiing and quattro is obvious: just like in skiing, where the athletes try to find the fastest way down to the finish, quattro is the safest and fastest means to reach the destination, especially in winter time. In addition, skiers are always looking to carve the perfect curve while having fun and staying safe. That’s what Audi are all about as well: perfection, driving pleasure and safety. The connection between Audi and skiing is close and credible; both are on a mission to reach the finish as fast and safely as possible. Closing the circle, Audi is about to introduce its first completely electric vehicles in 2018. All the e-tron models will have quattro four-wheel drive, which means that soon the ski athletes will reach their destination completely carbon neutral also when driving their Audis.”
An authentic partnership
From the title sponsorship of the FIS Ski and Ski Cross World Cups, to the Principal Sponsor of Nordic Combined and Official Partner of FIS Cross-Country and Ski Jumping World Cups as well as of the Freeride World Tour, many different aspects of skiing contribute to the big picture of Audi’s involvement. “Skiing provides Audi with a multi-faceted platform that allows us to reach several different target groups. The main audience of the FIS Nordic disciplines is very different from the fans of ski cross or alpine ski racing enthusiasts,” explains Thomas Glas. “In terms of the channels, Audi are always looking for the right balance. TV viewers are important but so are online sport consumers. Some of the ski disciplines are established TV products, and others are or are transitioning to becoming over-the-top media content. The authenticity of our partnership is important to us. Because Audi has been present in ski sports for so long, we make a point to also support new talent and emerging ski events or competitions.”
Proximity to the sport as added value
Audi is a global brand with extremely high brand awareness internationally. Which specific business objectives does the engagement with skiing help Audi achieve? “To an extent, skiing helps us maintain our brand awareness. But more importantly, Audi sees itself as a sponsor of emotions and as an enabler of a live connection to sport. The unique proximity to the field of play and the ski fans that skiing offers enhances our bond, and delivers special intimacy to our customers. Being able to attend an early morning course inspection and watch the athletes prepare for the competition is a good example of a FIS benefit that delivers us true added value. If I look back to last winter, my personal highlights include experiencing the emotions of the fans, both local and international, on-site at the St. Moritz 2017 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships where our brand was very visible. The Audi Lounge at Kulm Park was a hotbed of activity and a prime site for those personal encounters and emotions that we wish to deliver. We also invited a number of top athletes to participate in our Audi #superG challenge. Their excitement in such a different context was fascinating. The same goes to the more than 2,000 fans who participated in an Audi driving experience while in St. Moritz.”
Future chinese dimension
Looking forward, how do you see the Audi-FIS partnership developing? “Like in any long-term partnership, the relationship must and will grow over time. We are in a close and regular dialogue with FIS. We understand that the tradition of skiing is firmly embedded in Europe but do foresee other markets, especially Asia, becoming more important in the future. Internationalisation will be key for the future development of skiing. The good news is that the first Audi FIS Ski World Cup races will in fact already take place in China in two years,” concludes Thomas Glas.