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Athletics meeting highlights sponsorship fears

(Keystone)

The future sponsorship of significant Swiss cultural and sporting events has been thrown into question as the financial crisis takes its toll on company profits.

Organisers of Zurich's Weltklasse Golden League athletics event are still not sure if main sponsor UBS will continue beyond 2010. The Swiss bank has already ended its association with two other sporting events.

The bank was hit hard by the subprime financial crisis and announced last month that it needs to save SFr4 billion ($3.5 billion) in the coming years. Marketing was one area named by UBS as an area that can be cut.

Patrick Magyar, Weltklasse director, admitted at a news conference earlier this week that the SFr800,000 sponsorship package has yet to be decided after the present deal runs out in a year's time.

However, Magyar remained upbeat about the general financial climate – Weltklasse has renewed two other contracts – and refused to be panicked by the gloomy signs at UBS.

"It's strange that people think that because UBS has been a sponsor they will continue to be a sponsor," he told swissinfo. "Every time you discuss with a company like UBS you start from scratch and you don't know whether they will stay on board or not.

"They probably have less money to spend on marketing than they had in the past so it is up to us to show that we are one of the areas that they should invest in to give them a return on their investment," he added.

Each case considered

Of more pressing concern is UBS's sponsorship of Lausanne's Athletissima meeting that is due to expire at the end of this year. The bank has already said it will not continue its financial support of the Hong Kong Open golf tournament and the Swiss yachting team Alinghi.

However, the bank would not be drawn on other big name events, such as the ice hockey Spengler Cup and other cultural attractions such as Art Basel. UBS said it would honour current deals but would look at each case that has to be renewed on merit.

"For those sponsorship deals that are coming to an end we normally do a re-evaluation process to decide whether we want to renew the engagement," spokeswoman Rebecca Garcia told swissinfo. "Due to the bank's circumstances, one of the factors we will be sensitive about is costs."

Swiss sport and culture, including the national football team and the Locarno film festival, rely on income from big businesses keen to associate their names with crowd-drawing events. The two big banks have traditionally been among the biggest spenders, but the economics do not add up so well at present.

Credit Suisse stays quiet

Credit Suisse bank was equally tight-lipped about the precise nature of its future sponsorship plans.

"The expiration of contracts is examined and judged on their business worth - independent of the current economic situation – and a decision is taken on whether to renegotiate again," the bank said in a statement.

"The sponsorship portfolio is periodically examined, and if necessary adjustments are made," the statement continued.

"This evolution runs hand in hand with the communication strategy of our enterprise."

Matthew Allen in Zurich, swissinfo.ch

Weltklasse Zurich

The Weltklasse Zurich meeting, part of the prestigious Golden League circuit, has been running since 1928. This year it will be staged on August 28.

Twenty-four world records have been broken at the Zurich event, with the last being in 2006, when Asafa Powell set a new record – 9.77 seconds – for 100 metres.

The event has already attracted sprint sensation Usain Bolt, long-distance runner Kenenisa Bekele and pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva.

Next year, Zurich will host one of the finals of the revamped Diamond League international athletics circuit.

UBS has been a main sponsor of the event since 1982.

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