COLOGNE, GERMANY - MAY 19: SKODA 25th anniversary as Official Sponsor at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
IIHF, Skoda, Infront set partnership record
Skoda, Infront, and the IIHF solidified their long-running relationship by remembering the past and pointing towards the future.
Today the International Ice Hockey Federation, its marketing and media partner Infront Sports & Media and the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship’s Official Main Sponsor Skoda met to celebrate their 25th anniversary and to announce that the relationship will be extended another four years through 2021.
Skoda CEO Bernhard Maier said the relationship has been an important one for two-and-a-half decades.
“We are proud of the 25-year anniversary because it is based on principles of trust, mutual respect and mutual benefit,” Maier said today. “We are proud to be able to announce that our partnership will be prolonged for another four years covering 2018 to 2021. We will remain the main sponsor for the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.”
The Skoda partnership has become a visible and recognized part of the branding at World Championships. The two Skoda cars that sit on either side of an arena near the ice have become synonymous with the tournament experience.
“It was not easy to have two Skoda cars in the tribune,” IIHF President Rene Fasel recalls when the deal was struck in 1992. “We had big fights with the organizer because you lose some seats. Today it is an identifiable part of the brand to see a Skoda car near the ice. I don’t think there is another event where you have this exposure of a brand.”
In 25 years of goals, assists, big wins, agonizing losses, the intrigue and allure of hockey has grown as the sport has changed. Accordingly, Skoda’s cars have changed with the times as well as their marketing efforts at this annual centrepiece for international hockey.
“We do not play hockey as we did in 1992,” Fasel said. “It is a different game and this is a different car. We could not be sponsored by another luxury car. This is a car that fits our fans and we are very happy with our relationship with Skoda.”
Over the past few years Skoda has improved its presence on the ice and off the ice. They have increased the use of digital marketing platforms. Maier said they are looking to improve partnership in the future and being more ambitious. He said Skoda is keen to do their utmost to foster the partnership.
Infront Sports & Media AG CEO Philipp Blatter also recognized the importance of his company’s partnership with Skoda and the IIHF.
“For us it is very special to have partners who have been part of the Infront family for almost three decades. Our specialty is long-term partnerships. We need to deliver value. We are proud and honoured to be able to work together in making this happen.”
Blatter said that Infront has seen changes as well with the growth of hockey through its broadcasting. Its global programming was once 3,000 broadcast hours, now it is 6,000. Infront has also seen the market grow to 1.3 billion viewers with the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
Lena Kuhlmann, Adjudicator from the Guinness World Records, was on hand to reward Skoda with an official Guinness Book of World Records title for the longest sponsorship of a sporting world championship. Skoda broke its own record from 2007 when, at the time, it was a 15-year relationship.