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You can’t buy a new Peugeot off the lot in Canada. You haven’t been able to since the early 1990s, but that hasn’t stopped Europe’s second-largest carmaker from scooping up the automotive category at the Rogers Cup men’s tennis tournament. The tournament alternates between Montreal and Toronto, and Peugeot will follow it during its multi-year partnership.
There were media reports last summer, following the 2016 Paris auto show, about Peugeot’s longer-term plans to re-enter the North American automotive space. And it’s conceivable that, over the longer term, a partnership with the Rogers Cup might factor into those plans. But they don’t now. All Peugeot wants is its logo, stylish and distinctive, on courtside for the 87% of the Rogers Cup television audience that takes in the tournament from outside North America.
Peugeot has a large stable of tennis properties, explains Isabel Salas Mendez, Peugeot’s Head of Sponsorship from her office in Paris. In November 2015 Peugeot was announced as the global automotive partner of the ATP [Men’s] Tour. It is a partner of France’s iconic Rolland Garros tennis stadium, counts several top men’s tennis stars as global ambassadors, and is a partner of a almost 35 tournaments, including Miami and Cincinnati in the United States where it also has no commercial presence.
In some respects, the globalization of sport has brought sponsorship full circle. We’re back to the 1980s, where all some sponsors want is a big logo on the poster. Salas Mendez says Peugeot will have no vehicle displays onsite, no tickets, no hospitality, no brand activators. It will enjoy seeing its logo on the screen and leverage the tournament in digital and social media, as it does with its other tennis properties, feeding content to its Drive to Tennis program.
Peugeot simply wants to be known as the principal sponsor of men’s tennis worldwide, she says. The Rogers Cup was on its shopping list because of its top tier status as an ATP 1000 tournament. When the category opened up (Mazda held the category last year), Peugeot snapped it up.
For tournament owner Tennis Canada, having a partner like Peugeot in such a critical category has its benefits and its costs. Rogers Cup Chief Commercial Officer Rob Swann says he knew this day would likely come, so he had a plan at the ready.
In some respects, the globalization of sport has brought sponsorship full circle. We’re back to the 1980s, where all some sponsors want is a big logo on the poster.
Selling just the men’s tournament means splitting the category between two sponsors – not the ideal proposition. But Peugeot had made no secret of its designs on the Rogers Cup, and Swann says he has been building interest in the women’s tournament within the automotive category in anticipation of the day when this problem would land on his desk. And, he says, it appears to have paid off. Tournament organizers expect to announce a new multi-year automotive partnership for the Rogers Cup women’s tournament very soon.
“We’ll have the men and the women covered for the next couple of years,” he says.
That new partner will address another problem that emerges from the Peugeot partnership. The automotive partner supplies the vehicles that ferry players about town. With nary a new Peugeot to be found in Canada, Tennis Canada might have been left with the expense of providing transportation for the men. The still unannounced automotive sponsor of the women’s tournament will take care of that, says Swann. The branding on the cars will have to be distinctive, such as Official VIP Transportation, in order to respect Peugeot’s rights, says Swann, and the partner will have no presence onsite at the men’s tournament.
The tournament will lose the activation that the automotive sponsor brings to the event – at least until Peugeot re-enters the North American market.
Most clearly, though, the Peugeot sponsorship demonstrates how national boundaries no longer confine sport sponsorship.
“Our global reach is 55.6 million people,” says Swann of the men’s tournament. “When Rafael Nadal is playing, more people are watching in Spain than in Canada,” he says.
Tennis, which offers an uncluttered backcourt and steady, relatively fixed camera angles, is well suited to a brand like Peugeot that is interested in associating its brand with a sport. “The value of the sign is huge because of the global reach,” he says.
It has affected how the Rogers Cup approaches the marketplace, he says. “Any open categories we have, we try to talk to multinational companies.”
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