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Swiss firms reluctant to sponsor Euro 2008

(Keystone)

Companies risk missing out on a lucrative image boost by taking too long to decide how to use the Euro 2008 football championships to market their brand, say experts.

They warn firms may be wary of the high costs of commercial links with the high profile competition - being jointly hosted by Switzerland and Austria - and the stringent rules to prevent "ambush" marketing.

Nearly two thirds of Swiss companies surveyed for a "sponsorship barometer" report by German consultancy group Sport und Markt are interested in using the tournament to promote their brand, but have yet to set the wheels in motion.

Only 18 per cent of firms have formally started their marketing campaign.

"We were not expecting these results and it is difficult to know exactly why companies are dragging their feet," Boris Hedde from Sport und Markt told swissinfo.

"Perhaps one reason is that Euro 2008 is one of the most vigorously controlled sporting events to prevent ambush marketing [companies unofficially using the event to promote their brand without paying].

"There is a certain fear about these advertising restrictions and many people do not really know how they operate."

Competition

Fierce competition between companies for prime exposure makes it essential to gain a head start with an early plan of action. The most successful firms during the last World Cup in Germany started planning three years before the event, Hedde added.

Official national supporters paid an estimated SFr5 million ($4 million) to European football's ruling body Uefa for the last championship in 2004. They then had to spend three to four times as much on their communication strategies.

Firms can also buy licenses to use the Euro 2008 logo in their marketing campaigns. The amount they pay depends on how they want to use the brand, but Hedde believes in some cases the whole campaign could run to millions of francs.

"Imagine seeing 500 logos on a wall for a few seconds and then trying to remember individual brands – it is not easy," he said.

"For successful penetration, a company must invest a lot of money to build a campaign that is powerful enough to make an impact."

Credit Suisse bank's head of sponsorship, Adrian Schüpbach, agrees.

"Additional, often underestimated, costs are required to communicate the engagement properly to get the appropriate attention," he told swissinfo.

Windfall

"It is not easy to stand out from the international sponsors, especially for medium-sized Swiss companies."

Credit Suisse has been the main sponsor of the Swiss national team and football association since 1993. However this link proved incompatible with becoming an official "national supporter" of Euro 2008, a position that has been taken up by rival bank UBS.

Uefa expects sponsorship revenues of around SFr400 million compared with SFr278 million in 2004 and SFr81 million in 2000.

However, Uefa declined to comment on the fees charged to companies or ongoing plans to prevent ambush marketing.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen

In brief

There are three major sponsoring categories for Euro 2008.

Six Eurotop partners hold official marketing rights worldwide for all national team competitions for four years until 2009, including Euro 2008.

Four Euro-Sponsors have the same rights for Euro 2008 only.

National Supporters hold marketing rights for Euro 2008 only for one country. Switzerland has an allocation of four National Supporters: UBS has taken one slot while the other three have yet to be filled.

In addition, companies can bid for licences to use the Euro 2008 name to promote their brands in a limited way.

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Key facts

Sport und Markt's Euro 2008 sponsorship barometer, released this week, surveyed 122 Swiss companies.
The survey found that 88 of these firms sponsored sporting events this year (two more than 2004), with football the top choice, followed by ice hockey.
Event marketing and culture were also popular spending areas for company sponsorship deals.
Sport und Markt is a marketing consultancy group that analyses corporate sponsorship trends on behalf of Uefa for the Euro 2008 tournament.

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