The Swiss Ice Hockey Association has signed a five-year marketing deal with IMG Switzerland. In exchange for television and marketing rights, IMG is paying the Association SFr 64 million.This content was published on August 29, 2000 - 20:05
The Association's president, Werner Kohler, said the agreement would be of great benefit to both parties. "Until now our hands have been tied when it came to marketing," he explained. "It was always impossible to guarantee the financing of projects and therefore we were unable to develop properly."
IMG's director, Marc Biver, may be a fan of the sport, but he's clearly not handing the money over without a strong belief in the marketability of Swiss ice hockey. While European hockey may never be able to compete with North America's NHL, Biver insists that he knows his target audience.
"Every country in Europe is very nationalistic," he told swissinfo. "The people in Switzerland want to see Swiss players playing ice hockey. And I would say that the quality of the game in the Swiss championships is probably the best in Europe."
The national side's strong showing in this year's World Championships and the exciting climax to the domestic season certainly lend weight to Biver's argument. But that success has also seen many of the country's top stars leaving Switzerland to pursue careers abroad. Six Swiss players made the NHL draft this year, a new record. But Biver believes their experiences in North America will help raise the playing level at home.
"I think it's a positive thing," he says. "Because those players who go the NHL come back to play with the national team. And it's a great motivation for the other players who see that the potential to play in Canada and the United States is real."
IMG hope to build on the sport's existing marketing campaigns with a new sponsorship structure, stadium promotions, and the development of multimedia capabilities. But Biver says he doesn't believe in innovation for innovation's sake, citing his belief in free television sport as an example.
"I think Swiss sports should remain on national television", he says. "A popular sport like ice hockey should be visible to everybody, and not be put on pay television."
by Mark Ledsom
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