Volkswagen have deep roots and ties in the heart of German culture and deep in the heart of that culture is soccer. The German automobile producers are a Fortune 500 company whose reach spreads across the globe and soccer is one of the biggest mediums Volkswagen uses to market their brand.
Volkswagen’s footprint in Germany is naturally their strongest, as the organization has sponsorship deals with multiple clubs in the various German divisions.
The most prominent of these is the Bundesliga’s Wolfsburg. Volkswagen own 100% of the Wolfsburg-based club and have naming rights to the stadium as well as jersey sponsorship. Estimates show that VW pours $111.8 million into the club each season for the complete sponsorship package.
The club traces its connection with VW back to their founding in 1945. The original team developed from the auto manufacturer’s BSG Volkswagenwerk Stadt des KdF-Wagen side, a team composed of players who also worked in the factory.
Die Wölfe (The Wolves) won the 2008/09 Bundesliga title the DFB-Pokal in 2014/15.
“When you are there you know that if Volkswagen has a problem then it would be an immense problem for the team,” former Wolfsburg striker Jonathan Akpoborie told the BBC. “Volkswagen is the backbone of Wolfsburg, it would be a disaster if they separated…You know that without Volkswagen the team can’t survive, it would crumble.”
Sporting director Klaus Allofs, however, is putting on a more optimistic face. He said that as this time ‘nothing will change’ adding that Volkswagen’s emotional connection will be a strong tie to break.
“Volkswagen alone sponsors around 18 of the 36 clubs that make up Germany’s top two divisions. But we’re not just talking about Volkswagen here, we’re talking about the Volkswagen Group (which includes subsidiary Audi),” Simon Chadwick, professor of sport business strategy and marketing at Coventry University, told BBC World Service Sport.
1860 Munich is another team with jersey connections to VW. Die Löwen (The Lions) are in Bundesliga 2 and have VW’s holistic philosophy ‘Think Blue’ on their jersey.
Volkswagen has had previous jersey sponsorship deals with Ingolstadt and Eintracht Braunschweig. Ingolstadt’s presence in the top flight of German soccer has seen them earn a new sponsor since, and Eintracht Braunschweig has moved on as well – although Ingolstadt’s reserve teams are still wear jerseys sponsored by Audi, a Volkswagen subsidiary.
Elsewhere in Germany, Volkswagen has deals in place with FC Shalke 04, Werder Bremen, Hamburg SV, and the DFB Pokal – the German domestic cup.
It is not just Germany that Volkswagen’s reach is limited to, however. The vehicle producers have their hands in Brazil’s top league, the Brasileira Petroba Serie A, the French Football Association (a deal that stretches through 2018), and the Brazilian Football Association.
Sligo Rovers, of the League of Ireland Premier League, have VW on the front of their jersey.
Finally, Volkswagen’s financial influence in soccer stretches all the way to the country that the sport actually goes by the name of soccer in – the United States. Volkswagen has previously been a sponsor of DC United in Washington D.C. They’ve also been the official automobile of the MLS for multiple seasons until they were recently replaced by Audi who, being a subsidiary of Volkswagen, still gives VW a significant hold in the league as the sponsor for the ‘Audi MLS Cup Playoffs’.
Delving even deeper into the American soccer hierarchy, Volkswagen is even a sponsor for NPSL team Chattanooga FC. The German company has the official jersey sponsor rights for the amateur side in Tennessee and their deal indicates just how far the influence of the automobile company really stretches. Even the lowest divisions of the sport aren’t forgotten by Volkswagen.
The recent scandal claiming that the German car manufacturer had been cheating on U.S. emissions tests and faces a potential $18 billion fine may have some VW-sponsored clubs wary of losing that support in the near future. The repercussions could see new sponsorship deals formed and old sponsors done away with. No news has been announced of Volkswagen backing out of any sponsorship deals despite analysts claiming that sports sponsors are on the top of the ‘cutting costs’ lists.
But Volkswagen’s roots in soccer – especially the German brand – are deep, and despite the company’s shortcomings, Volkswagen is not likely to cease being a major part of German soccer and soccer in the wider world.
What teams are we missing that are sponsored by Volkswagen?