Polar (www.polar.fi) is the "Official FIS Timing Partner for Cross-Country Skiing" and the "Official Heart Rate Training Computer Partner for the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup." Toni Roponen, Sports Marketing Manager, elaborated on his company's involvement in sports, and Nordic Skiing in particular.
Q. How does sponsoring help Polar meet its marketing and communication goals?
Toni Roponen: Our sponsoring engagements help Polar primarily in two areas: to increase the brand's general visibility and to grow our brand awareness in key markets. We feel that it is essential for us to be seen as partner of some of the leading endurance sports because our customers are fundamentally people who appreciate such sports, are interested in fitness and themselves exercise regularly. At the same time, we are using sport sponsoring to educate our target market about our broad range of products. While our origins are in heart rate measurement - we continue to be the world leader in that field - Polar today provides training technology and tools for anyone who seeks to improve their fitness or performance, no matter in what sport, even team sports.
Q. Please describe the different ways that you are directly involved in sport sponsoring?
Toni Roponen: Polar has served as the FIS Timing Partner for Cross-Country Skiing for two seasons and also stepped in as the "Official Heart Rate Training Computer Partner for the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup" at the start of last season. The engagement in Nordic Combined is noteworthy given the role of our telemetry solutions in helping improve the presentation of the sport for TV viewers. For us, sponsoring skiing at the highest level is a relatively new engagement. By comparison, we have been involved in the Tour de France for six years and currently partner with 11 professional cycling teams. Moreover, Polar cooperates with Tennis Europe and sponsors many one day events such as the city marathons in Boston, Paris, Frankfurt and London, to mention a few.
Q: What is it that makes a partnership with skiing and FIS the right fit for Polar?
Toni Roponen: For Polar, the connection to top level Nordic Skiing is obvious. At least 80% of the top athletes use our products in their training. But we are interested in the entire package: we feel that skiing today offers a positive TV image thanks to several changes in the competition formats in recent years and also provides sustained high level visibility during the long winter season from November to March. From a selling perspective this includes significant visibility during the challenging post-Christmas period in several of our key markets in Central and Northern Europe.
Q. From a sponsor's perspective, do you have any special message to FIS?
Toni Roponen: So far we at Polar have been very pleased with the FIS partnership: everything has been very easy, professionally managed and positive. We are proud to work with FIS to further develop Nordic Skiing and can see natural ways to grow this cooperation for mutual benefit. Some areas of enhanced collaboration might, for example, involve new ways to help active ski enthusiasts to better use the available tools to improve their fitness.
Q. What was your personal skiing highlight in the past season and what do you expect from the upcoming season?
Toni Roponen: There were two season highlights last season: the first was the World Cup weekend in Oberhof with the opening of the Tour de Ski and two competitions in the Nordic Combined World Cup. We were very pleased with the viewership figures and also very happy with the technical execution of our partnership. The second highlight came at the Lahti Ski Games where we had a highly successful activation program with side events on-site in addition to the World Cup competition program.
For the coming season, we are especially looking forward to the 4th edition of the Tour de Ski which will be the first time that the event takes place fully in the new year, from 1st-10th January 2010. We are also expecting positive visibility during the Vancouver Olympic Games where our products will be used by so many top athletes that we are bound to have a strong showing even if we are not an official Olympic sponsor.