If the title seems like something familiar that you’ve heard before, it’s because I borrowed it from Hublot Loves Football. Back then, Hublot earned the reputation of being the first luxury brand to invest in the game and guess what, it was under the leadership of Jean-Claude Biver; the very same Jean-Claude Biver that is now the CEO of TAG Heuer. The German Bundesliga, the English Premier League, the Spanish LaLiga, the American MLS (Major League Soccer), China’s Super League, the Australian National football team, the Copa America and International Champions Cup, plus international ambassadors Cristiano Ronaldo and recently selected Shinji Kagawa; I have a feeling that the love affair between the world’s most popular sport and the Swiss watchmaker has only just begun,
I think it’s safe to say that TAG Heuer considers investing in the world of football a winning strategy, and why shouldn’t they? Football is one of the most watched sports in the world with an estimated 3.5 billion fans around the globe. 3.5 billion fans mean seven billion eyeballs looking at the brand and at TAG Heuer’s logo as the match goes on. Biver continues “It’s not only ‘popular’ in terms of the number of followers, but also because of its broad reach. Men, women, the young, the not so young, students, entrepreneurs—football reaches everyone, without distinction. What’s more, through football we reach not only today’s customers, but also the customers of tomorrow by engaging with all the young people who follow the sport. Some of them might become TAG Heuer customers! And lastly, football lets us differentiate ourselves as a luxury brand. Unlike others, who sponsor golf, horseback riding or polo, we don’t have any competitors in this arena.”
With TAG Heuer going so aggressively into football, one may ask the question how TAG Heuer (which is also under the LVMH umbrella) will differentiate themselves from Hublot’s pioneering strategies in the world of football and Biver has an answer for that as well. “Hublot, a premium, selective brand, sponsors the most prestigious events, the World Cup, the UEFA Euro and the Champions League. TAG Heuer, which represents accessible luxury, focused on major national events—the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga, the Spanish LaLiga, the American MLS, as well as football in China, Japan and Australia. Together, our two houses cover all the different opportunities with a complementary fit.” Well played Biver, well played.
Starting with TAG Heuer’s partnership with the English Premier League, the brand has even moved on to partnering with the individual football teams, just recently announcing its role as the Official Timekeeper and Global Partner of Manchester United. The three-year agreement was officially unveiled in Beijing in the presence of United Ambassadors Park Ji-sung and Denis Irwin, two of the club’s most decorated players (who between them have notched up 11 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues).
From left: Manchester United players, Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford.
What this partnership really means is that when the team returns to launch the Premier League campaign for 2016/17, TAG Heuer will be up on digital advertising boards around Old Trafford. Specially-crafted TAG Heuer timepieces will be displayed not just around the stadium but also in the team’s dressing room, the Aon Training Complex, and its offices in Manchester, London and Hong Kong. If you follow the team online, you may also be seeing more of the don’t crack under pressure hashtag on Manchester United’s digital platforms, including its website and social media. “Manchester United is the most prestigious football team in the world and getting into football at the highest level is for me very important. TAG Heuer doesn’t ‘sponsor’, we 'partner with iconic teams, organisations, and people who share similar values and a strong vision,” Biver comments during the launch.
So for a team that has roots in England, one might wonder why the announcement was made in Beijing, halfway around the world. According to TAG Heuer, United has about 659 million followers worldwide, 107 million of whom are from China. “It’s important that we forge partnerships that create synergies and are visible through the initiatives we develop together. With Manchester United, for example, we’re able to reach a clientele in China and Asia. The club is a veritable institution in this part of the world and our partnership will help develop our brand in Asia, not only through TV and media visibility, but also thanks to joint events during the club’s Asia tour and all year,” Biver explains.
Manchester United winger, Ashley Young.
Whether or not this is a winning strategy, only time will tell, but coming from a man that has brought Hublot its notoriety as a rule-breaker within the watch industry, I’d wager that even though it may be unconventional for a luxury brand to invest in a sport like football, Jean-Claude Biver has put his money on the right team.