Sponsorship Around the World: Sweden Edition
5 Minute Read
• Aside from soccer and hockey, bandy is a top sport in Sweden giving sponsors the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the region.
• For a country of its size, Sweden is consistently a top Olympic country making Olympians valuable endorsers for a variety of brands.
• Many Swedish brands are following the trend of activating their sponsorships for good.
Sponsorship Around the World is a series published by MKTG appearing in our Friday Insights feature. Sponsorship Around the World will take you to different countries to highlight sponsorship trends and best practices from outside North America. For each installment, MKTG will provide an overview of key insights from a different global market. For the second installment, MKTG travels to Sweden to study their sponsorship landscape:
For many sports marketers, Sweden is most commonly associated with their talent in ice-hockey. Between current stars like Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg, and Henrik Lundqvist, there are multiple talented Swede’s competing in North America. In addition to their hockey exports, Sweden has a number of other athletes and properties that can prove valuable to corporate sponsors. Before brands enter into the Swedish market it is important to understand Sweden’s attitudes when it comes to sponsorship. MKTG discusses 5 sponsorship insights regarding Sweden:
1. A variation on hockey is one of the most popular sports in the country giving sponsors the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the region
Aside from soccer and hockey, Sweden is noted for their playing of bandy, a sport very similar to hockey. Bandy is played outdoors with two teams of eleven on a sheet of ice about the same size as a soccer field. As opposed to a puck, a ball is used and players use a stick similar to a field hockey stick.
Elitserien, meaning the “Elite League”, is the highest bandy league in Sweden, consisting of 14 teams from across the country. Elisterien is one of the top attended Swedish sports leagues with games consistently drawing over 5,000 spectators. League sponsors of Elisterien include multiple Swedish companies like the Swedish lottery commission, a Swedish industrial group, and Swedish athletic supplier PM Sales. In addition, Canadian hockey company CCM is a league sponsor and manufactures team jerseys. Similar to other European sports, jersey sponsorship in Bandy is very cluttered. Multiple brands can be found on team jerseys, as well as helmets, socks, and pants. With Bandy primarily played in the Nordic countries and Russia, sponsors have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the region by investing in the sport.
2. Sweden dominates the Olympics on a per-capita basis, resulting in large audiences for potential sponsors
Despite Sweden’s relatively small population of 9 million people, they are very prominent on the world sporting stage. Sweden ranks 7th in the all-time Olympic medal table, representing the country with the smallest population in the top ten. Sweden has won an Olympic medal for every 15,299 citizens compared to the United States who has won one for every 118,948 citizens. Two current popular Swedish Olympians are triathlete Lisa Norden and cross-country skier Marcus Hellner. Norden competed at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and most recently won silver at the 2012 Olympics in London. Norden has a wide range of sponsors on her rosters including endemic brands for triathletes such as Asics. However, Norden also has sponsorship from a Swedish travel website , gambling website, and an energy supplier. Cross-country skiier Marcus Hellner is sponsored by a real estate company, a mineral supplier, and a home furnishing brand. During the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, 7.1 million Swedes (76% of the TV population) watched at least one minute of coverage. With Sweden’s success at the Olympics and the amount of Swedes passionate about the Games, Olympians represent valuable endorsers for a variety of brands.
3. Swedish companies have a history of leading CSR initiatives as demonstrated through sponsorship
Corporate Knights, a leading publication on sustainable businesses, frequently include Swedish companies on their annual list of companies with a positive, social and environmental performances. Swedish companies have demonstrated their commitment to CSR initiatives through sponsorships. In 2007 Swedbank, one of the primary banks in Sweden, bought the naming rights to an arena in Solna, Sweden. In 2012 Swedbank donated the naming rights to the anti-bullying organization, Friends. The arena’s name was subsequently changed to the Friends Arena. Also, when Swedish brand H&M sponsored tennis player Tomas Berdych, Berdych chose to wear shirts from H&M’s “Conscious Collection”. The “Conscious Collection” is a collection of clothes made to be beneficial to the people and the planet. Swedish companies demonstrate their commitment to CSR through a variety of ways including sponsorship. By activating their sponsorships for causes that matter to Swedes, these sponsors are able to capitalize on the reach of sponsored properties and the relevance of causes.
4. Swedish Sport Organizations rely heavily on government grants and minimally on sponsorship
National Swedish sport organizations such as the Swedish Ice Hockey Association rely on about 20% of their funding to come from the government and only 9% of their funding comes from sponsorships. Conversely in Canada, an equivalent organization would be Hockey Canada which receives 27% of their funding from sponsors. Reliance on government funding for sport has long been the tradition in Sweden since the creation of the Swedish Sports Confederation in 1903. The government saw sport as something valuable to citizens from all economic backgrounds and geographic areas of the country. A greater proportion of government funding allocated to national sport organizations creates two implications for sponsorship at the grassroots level. Grassroots organizations are no longer as reliant on sponsorship funding and the sponsors that are involved have greater ownership due to not sharing the property with multiple co-sponsors.
5. Many Swedish athletes compete outside the country but continue to work with Swedish sponsors
It is common for many Swedish athletes that make it to the top of their sport to head to other leagues to compete with the best. As mentioned before, Sweden has a number of hockey players competing in the NHL. However, just because they no longer compete in Sweden they can still remain highly marketable back in their home country. New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is one of the top goalies in the NHL but remains active with multiple Swedish sponsors. Lundqvist appears in Swedish commercials for Head & Shoulders and has his own line of underwear for the Swedish brand Bread & Boxers. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a Swedish soccer player competing for PSG in the French soccer league. Like Lundqvist, Ibrahimovic still remains active with Swedish brands as he is featured in Swedish commercials for Volvo and is the spokesperson for Vitamin Well, a Swedish sports drink. While these athletes are highly successful, corporate sponsors tend to look for endorsers with a local relevance. In Canada, where there are an abundance of hockey players, brands can choose which athletes best resonate in local markets. However, Lundqvist resonates well in his home country which is where he attracts the most sponsorship interest.
For sponsorship marketers it is important to gain an understanding of the different aspects present within different international markets. MKTG will continue to profile a variety of countries and if you have a market you are interested in learning more about, let us know in the comment section below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.