BERLIN -- Volkswagen has added the rainbow colors to its advertising banners during the Euro 2020 soccer tournament to show its support for diversity and LGBT rights.
The move comes after the tournament’s organizers UEFA refused to allow Munich city authorities to light up the Allianz Arena with the rainbow flags during Germany’s game against Hungary on June 23.
VW brand is UEFA’s official mobility partner after signing a marketing contract with the association in 2018, replacing Hyundai as the tournament’s automotive sponsor.
VW brand’s sales chief, Klaus Zellmer, strongly criticized UEFA's decision. "We would have been very happy if the stadium had been illuminated in rainbow colors for the Germany-Hungary game," Zellmer told the Muenchner Merkur newspaper in an interview.
During the Euro 2020’s knockout stage this week, VW has been using the rainbow colors in advertising banners on the side of the pitches at stadiums in Amsterdam, London, Seville and Budapest.
Zellmer said VW takes its role as a sponsor of the championships very seriously and has made its position on the subject of diversity "very clear to UEFA and Germany’s national soccer association, the DFB."
"Volkswagen is committed to diversity in our society. This attitude is part of our social responsibility,” a VW spokesperson told Automotive News Europe in an email. "We are a colorful, diverse company that accepts people as they are, regardless of nationality, skin color, gender, age, religion and sexuality."
Munich’s mayor had wanted to use the rainbow colors, typically associated with the LBGT movement, to illuminate the Allianz Arena in protest at the Hungarian government’s new law that bans the sharing of any content seen as promoting homosexuality and gender change to under-18s.
UEFA refused the mayor's request, saying it could not support “political” messages.
VW is using is Euro 2020 sponsorship to promote its new electric vehicles such as the ID4 crossover, which is being rolled out this year as the automaker seeks to pass Tesla as the world’s biggest seller of EVs.
The automaker is specifically using the partnership with the German national soccer team to highlight its push towards sustainable mobility and draw a connection between athletics and the sporty performance of its latest electric vehicle, the ID4 GTX.
Stephan Franssen, VW’s head of sponsoring, told Automotive News Europe that the marketing push gives the automaker the opportunity to show fans that VW is serious about sustainable mobility and that the company has committed to the Paris climate targets: By 2050 at the latest, VW’s aim is to be a CO2-neutral company.
VW brand aims for at least 70 percent of its annual vehicle sales in Europe to be full-electric cars by 2030 alone, which equates to more than 1 million vehicles.