Audi drops polo to embark on a new era of sponsorship in the performing arts
The world of polo has been shocked to hear about the withdrawal of Audi as its main sponsor.
After an impressive twelve year stint, writes Richard Fox, Audi has made the commercial decision not to renew its sponsorships for the England polo team, the Audi International Series and the Pony Club Polo Championships, after an extensive review of the brand's sponsorship initiatives.
The Audi International Series was announced in late April 2012, as we reported at the time.
But in some ways Audi's move away from almost all its involvement in polo is perhaps not so surprising. Internationally, the marque's sponsorship portfolio is somewhat diverse and prone to review and development, in part no doubt because of competitive activity in the sector. Its involvement in motorsport is of course high profile and it is also very active in soccer. In Australia, it has used a film sponsorship strategy of late.
Audi made history in 2012 by winning the Le Mans 24-hour race using pioneering hybrid diesel technology in the R18 e-tron quattro. It went on to repeat the performance in the 2013 and 2014 races, taking the total number of Audi victories there to thirteen.
Starting with the 2014/2015 season, Audi has become much more active in international winter sports, supporting the FIS Cross-Country World Cup and the men's FIS Ski Jumping World Cup, including the Four Hills Tournament and the FIS Ski Flying World Championships in 2016 and 2018.
Commenting on the withdsrawal from polo, Jon Zammett, Head of PR for Audi UK, said: "We are very proud to have been a significant supporter of polo in the UK for more than a decade. We believe Audi has made a positive impact on the development and growing success of the national England squad, in particular, as well as the sport as a whole over the years.
"However, we feel that it is now an appropriate time to embark on a new era for Audi in which we will further embrace and focus on our activities relating to the performing arts. Audi has already expanded its collaborations this year with BAFTA as well as the Royal Ballet.
"After a very consistent period of support for polo at many levels, which began with visiting international team sponsorships going as far back as 2002, Audi of course wishes the sport the very best of luck, including the HPA*, with whom we have greatly enjoyed working. We hope the sport will see continued success in the future, building on the achievements and advances of the Audi era".
However, Audi will be continuing to host its Audi Polo Challenge - private exclusive events, which have raised more than £1.7 million over the years for various charities supported by the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry. John Tinsley, who has been Chair of the HPA's International Committee throughout the Audi involvement in polo, commented: "Audi has had a huge impact on the sport, in particular for the England squad which has been transformed in the last ten years and become the envy of all other countries. In addition, its sponsorship for the Pony Club has been crucial to the development of our young players.
"Its contribution to polo, which has been focused on English players, will be much missed and the Hurlingham Polo Association would like to thank Audi for all its unstinting support."