Can Mercedes UK ever recover from today’s soccer result?

  28 June 2010

You probably felt you had wasted 90-minutes. You could have been patrolling the showroom in case other like-minded individuals had decided that drooling over cars was more entertaining than following England’s miserable performance on the World Cup stage.

I went back to my comfort zone on the web to see if I could make sense of the money which automotive sponsors have poured into the competition. Will the money expended by car manufacturers on World Cup sponsorship ever produce a result where it counts – in the showroom?

Kia will have been buoyed by the fact that last week, internet searches for the brand were so heavy they shot the brand into second position in the Experian Hitwise World Cup Brand Index. Kia sponsors the Slovakian team and is also a FIFA partner. The performance, which saw the number of searches increase by 13.2%, out-shone all of its larger automotive rivals.

Fiat was the next best performing automotive brand with an 8.2% increase in searches. I cannot determine what brought that surge about. As far as I can tell, Fiat has no involvement in the tournament’s sponsorship. Then came Hyundai (7.1%), also a world cup sponsor, and Mercedes (4.3%). Searches for Chevrolet, Peugeot and VW saw the number of searches for their brands decrease since the week before.

The analysis suggests that it is as much about how a brand manages its sponsorship package as it is about who they sponsor. Simply teaming-up with a hopefully successful team isn’t enough. Kia has been pushing its sponsorship through dealerships, a special World Cup edition Soul and by creating a World Cup fans’ site in conjunction with four newspapers and broadcasters.”

Hyundai has been showing matches live on big screens at Hyundai Fan Parks in Manchester and Bristol and giving-away thousands of England car flags.

But the conundrum for me is that the brands which have performed well this week were those sponsoring the underdog teams.

For instance, Budweiser was the overall leader in searches with a 25% increase. Australian shopping giant, Westfield, completed the top five along with Vodafone and Adidas. Budweiser sponsored the USA team, Westfield sponsored Australia and Vodafone supported Greece. Slovakia, also an underdog, carried Kia’s sponsorship.

VW Van Centres have been trying to get on the football bandwagon without actually sponsoring anybody. Robinsons Van Centre in Norwich has turned a white Transporter into a mobile England flag. On a bigger scale, Abridge Van Centre in Essex, went one better by adding images of some of the players to a Crafter van. “The Crafter is really eye-catching,” said Wendy Williamson, the dealership’s brand manager. “It’s amazing how many people are asking to drive it, and we’re sure somebody will want to buy it as it is.” After this afternoon’s result, I doubt that.

All of this activity, however, saw the number of VW searches made last week decrease by 1.1%.

Mercedes-Benz sent the German football team to South Africa, of course, with its blessing and sponsorship. I wonder what today’s result will do for the brand’s showroom traffic in the UK. It could take the brand decades to recover its position in the UK.

Have a good week. If you have a story for us, email barry@auto-retail.com, Barry Hook.

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