june 05, 2015 - Nissan

Nissan UEFA Champions League Sponsorship

Interview with Roel de Vries ­ Corporate Vice President, Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy 

Nissan's record investment in the UEFA Champions League is already seeing a return, thanks to a tried and tested strategy aimed at becoming part of its customers' lives. 

The Japanese car maker, the leader in zero­emission mobility, will showcase its innovative range of electric vehicles at Saturday's UEFA Champions League final between Barcelona and Juventus in Berlin. 

After the first year of a four­year partnership with the most prestigious club competition in world football, Nissan's Corporate Vice President, Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy, Roel de Vries, said the company is delighted with the way things have gone. 

"We're very happy with the results so far," he said. "We measure the impact that the sponsorship is having and the results in Europe are really encouraging. 

"We are recognised quite strongly for the fact that we sponsor and we also see that the opinion those people have of our brand is strongly improving, which is very encouraging. 

We're obviously not doing this just for the fun of it; we're doing it to change perception of our brand. 

"After six months, the number of people having a good opinion of our brand but not knowing that we sponsor football was 30 percent; when they know we're a sponsor of the Champions League, so they've actively seen what we're doing, that was 60 percent. 

"That was a massive swing we managed to do and for us, that confirms that if you as a brand do things that people enjoy and you're a part of their world and things that interest them, then they will look at you favourably too." 

Partnering with the UEFA Champions League is all part of Nissan's Innovation that Excites commitment, bringing the brand into households all over Europe and, over the next three years, into homes worldwide. 

"In the first year, all of the advertising around the games itself was in Europe; for the (next) three years we have coverage all over the world," De Vries said. 

"In terms of creative direction, we need to make sure we've got stuff that works in Asia and South America because global expansion of the marketing activity is big for us." 

Looking for a way to engage and excite potential customers, Nissan approached the UEFA Champions League, thanks to its international appeal, especially in Latin America and Asia. 

Making the connection with people through football, De Vries said, was crucial in promoting the Nissan brand. 

"If you're a large brand like us, the most important thing is that you become part of your target customer's world and environment, that you are part of the things that excite them," he said. 

"We spend a lot of marketing dollars like all brands do, but to find the real connections is difficult. So when we communicate with people, when we have a car or a special offer or something to talk about, we refer to our vehicle. 

"But we don't often connect with people when they are more in the relaxed atmosphere, when they're enjoying themselves or when they are doing what they feel like doing and I feel it's important that as a brand you're also part of their life. 

"To be frank, the majority of people are not thinking about buying a car every day of their lives. 

"We therefore decided that in addition to all the communication of vehicles, we need to invest more in becoming part of people's lives and we felt the most engaging activity is watching sports. We felt football was a very good brand fit for Nissan." 

themselves or when they are doing what they feel like doing and I feel it's important that as a brand you're also part of their life. 

"To be frank, the majority of people are not thinking about buying a car every day of their lives. 

"We therefore decided that in addition to all the communication of vehicles, we need to invest more in becoming part of people's lives and we felt the most engaging activity is watching sports. We felt football was a very good brand fit for Nissan." 

It is a strategy borrowed from the likes of Coca­Cola, De Vries said. 

"If you as a brand do things that people enjoy and you're a part of their world and things that interest them, then they will look at you favourably too," he said. 

"We're in a different path (to Coca­Cola) but the principle is the same. If you are visible in those things that engage people then you become part of their world." 

In addition to using its ticket allocation to offer people the UEFA Champions League experience, Nissan also uses players to enhance its brand, specifically through its "goal of the week" competition. One hundred EVs will be supplied for use with UEFA and its associated partners in Berlin, while Nissan will install 129 temporary and permanent charging points, leaving a legacy to the city. 

De Vries said improving the environment through the zero­emissions of electric vehicles was a key message to get across and said the aim is to make driving an EV as much fun as regular vehicles. 

"Electric vehicles are part of where the industry is going and where the industry has to go," he said. "If we'd start investing like we're doing now and more and more people are following us, investing in these type of technologies, these vehicles will become more and more fun to drive, the range of these vehicles will get longer and longer and you get to a stage where electric vehicles are just as much fun to drive as any other cars, maybe even more fun."