Is the theory of Win on Sunday, sell on Monday a myth? Alain Visser says yes.
Volvo's sales and marketing boss calls himself a diehard fan who will rise in the middle of the night to watch a race, but he's also a realist when it comes to the true return on investment provided by a motor sports sponsorship.
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"I love motor sports, but I would never invest the company's money in it," he said during a panel discussion on brand image at a recent conference held by Automotive News Europe German sister publication Automobilwoche. "I would be pleased to see a business plan that shows this actually leads to profits."
When someone on the panel mentioned Ferrari's success on the track and in the showroom, Visser's response was succinct: "Ferrari builds cars to support its motor sports image."
The point? It's unfair to compare Ferrari and with Volvo when Ferrari sells about 8,000 supercars a year vs. Volvo's 400,000-plus vehicles a year, with an eye toward 800,000 by 2020.
During the same conference, Renault sales executive Andreas Gabriel said that the automaker uses its participation in Formula One as one of its top two unique selling points in India. The other is Renault's 100-plus years of car-building experience.
Still, Visser's view is an interesting way of looking at the risks and rewards of getting involved in motor sports sponsorships, especially the wildly popular and ultra-expensive F1 series. How expensive is something of a mystery, as automakers don't reveal what they spend, but F1 insiders suggest that top teams invest several hundred million euros a year.
The bottom line is that there is a disagreement on whether the money an automaker invests in F1, or any other racing series, directly benefits sales.
Visser did offer an opinion on why so many automakers agree to multimillion-euro deals to link their brands to particular sports, events or teams.
"If you analyze 100 sponsorship deals you will learn that the son of one of the board members very often is participating in the sport," he said. "Therefore, this decision is not always based on rational reasons.