Per Ericsson took over the helm of Volvo’s golf juggernaut that had no fewer than 110 title sponsorships on the clock since the Swedish brand started out in golf back in 1988. His first event was the 21st and final Volvo Masters at Valderrama. Vangelis Chaniotakis meets the man and examines the business rationale behind golf’s longest serving sponsor.
How did you start with Volvo in Golf? I was appointed by the board in 2008.
What was your experience before this – and what was the vision for Volvo in Golf at that time? My background is in media in general and TV in particular. In 2008, the final Volvo Masters had at this time been staged and transformed into the Race to Dubai. The strategy moving on was, and still is, to stage special and unique professional tournaments and link them to our client-golfer and to the customer experience that is in the center, the focus of attention.
The Volvo brand is synonymous with supporting golf having been a major sponsor of the European Tour for over 25 years. How did it all start and how you see this long term relationship going forward? This, of course, varies for different sponsors, but for us it is a long term engagement. It is a rather big investment, making the decision to engage in sponsorship, which means that a long term strategy is more economical. We have been in golf since 1988, which is the longest running sponsorship in golf. We were the first to engage with golf in China too, in 1995.
What do you enjoy most about what you do? That through golf as a business and marketing tool, I work with the Volvo brand. And while doing this I also get the chance to get in touch with different cultures and people and to get everyone to work for a common goal.When did you start golfing and who introduced you to the game? I started in 1985 when I was studying at University, and I started with a couple of friends.
What is your favorite golf destination? Hawaii
If you could change one aspect, rule or thing about golf, what would it be and why? I would like the hole to be a bit bigger – but only for me… That way I could improve my score a bit…ha ha!
Every year Volvo’s golf tournaments were followed by billions of viewers all around the world. You had high expectations – did you achieve your goals? Yes, I must say we get excellent results. The way it works for Volvo, is that our sponsorship in golf renders us visible in terms of worldwide TV exposure; in general, one of our professional events generates almost 2,000 hours of coverage across more than 150 countries worldwide, with a potential global reach of more than 500 million homes. Add to that radio, print, online…
Looking at the Volvo in Golf brand development, already talked about the major golf events. But that can’t be the full story. Have you any ideas about making golf more of a challenge? Most importantly we have the Volvo World Golf Challenge, our global tournament for customers and prospective clients. We link it to the professional side of our events, and the World final for the amateurs is staged at the same time as one of our professional events – the Volvo Golf Champions. The top finishers in the World Final can actually get the chance to play together with the pros, during the professional event, live on worldwide TV. We call it ‘Playing with the Pros’ and this is unique. We are building strong relationships with customers who are passionate about the game.
The three common criticisms of golf are it takes too long to play, can be too expensive and too difficult to learn. What is Volvo’s perspective? For Volvo it is all about golf being a demographic sport. Many of Volvo’s customers play golf and the potential clients too.
What is your outlook for Volvo in Golf, and the sport of golf overall? Golf will be in the Olympics in 2016, so there’s a lot of focus on that worldwide. And for Volvo there is also a positive trend in terms of us using golf as a business tool; golf is booming in many countries, especially if you look at emerging markets – golf is growing where Volvo wants to grow.
How is Volvo enhancing and improving the overall experience through the tournaments with golf consumers? The way I mentioned earlier, through experiences such as ‘Playing with the Pros’, the chance of taking part in something money can’t buy. But also on a local/national level by adding more elements to our customer golf – the Volvo World Golf Challenge – such as ‘The second Chance’. When you think you probably have missed out on qualifying to the next level of the tournament – you can get a second chance. For example, there can be an additional qualifying tournament running over the last holes of the round.
What are Volvo’s plans for increasing interest and participation in golf? How Volvo will utilise golf and develop our concept in the future, that will be reveled moving onwards…
What is your strategy for Volvo China Open? I think that with our history, and the fact that we move the tournament around the country and that all players and clubs in China get involved, the Volvo China Open has the best chance in Asia to become a ‘Major’.
What means for Volvo amateur golf? See above, Volvo World Golf Challenge
Volvo is involved in golf with Volvo Golf Champions, Volvo China Open, Volvo World Match Play Championship, Volvo World Golf Challenge. Do you have a favorite? Well, all of our events have a very special profile. But I would have to say the link between the Volvo Golf Champions, our ‘tournament of Champions’ and the Volvo World Golf Challenge. Connecting the professional side with our customers in such a direct way is amazing.
What do you know about golf in Greece? I have played on Crete, during a vacation a long time ago, and I remember I really enjoyed that. Otherwise I don’t know that much.
Greece offers an abundance of locations in spectacular settings for golf development. Cultural attractions, a full range of leisure activities, an ideally suited climate for year round golf, new golf courses, Greece has all the right ingredients. So, could you see Greece as the next big opportunity in golf for Volvo? We are always looking at new venues since we constantly move our events around the world. What we search for is the ultimate mix of course, venue and infrastructure – and most importantly – that it’s an interesting business case for Volvo. So, we’ll just have to see!
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