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Cars and tennis

Loh Chen-Yi
Loh Chen-Yi • 6 min read
Cars and tennis
Porsche is providing the wheels for the best women tennis players during the WTA Finals.
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Porsche is providing the wheels for the best women tennis players during the WTA Finals.

Professional sports is big business, and while team sports can draw massive crowds and corporate sponsorship, the same is not always true of sports for individuals. One of the individual sports that is streets ahead of its cohort is tennis, being one of the most popular sports in the world for both men and women.

The 2016 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global is the glamorous climax to the season for the best players in women’s tennis and is drawing plenty of corporate attention. As the name of the tournament suggests, companies like French bank BNP Paribas and Singapore property developer SC Global are prime sponsors with naming rights to the event, which will be played in Singapore from Oct 23. However, German super- carmaker Porsche also actively supports the event in its sponsorship.

The manufacturer of sporting and luxury automobiles has a long association with tennis. It began in 1978 with sponsoring the inaugural Porsche Tennis Grand Prix for women in the German town of Filderstadt. The winner of the event that year was presented with a Porsche 924. Over the years, Porsche’s involvement and investment in the event only grew deeper. It financed the construction of a 4,600-seater Porsche Arena for tennis and indoor sports in its home city of Stuttgart that opened in 2006. The arena is now the permanent home of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.

Here in Singapore, Porsche’s partnership with the WTA Finals is in its second year. As a carmaker, one natural function is the logistics to transport players and officials around Singapore for the duration of the tournament. And as Henrik Drier, the general manager of Porsche Singapore, explains, the carmaker’s involvement with the WTA Finals was not only an extension of its lengthy involvement with tennis but also a harmonious fit for its premium brand.

“The WTA Finals is one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world with the top eight women’s tennis players. For us, it is also a great opportunity for our brand as many people will watch it and there will be plenty of media attention,” says Drier. He adds that because of the high profile and prestige of the event, Porsche was prepared to invest in the supply of 40 sport utility vehicles (SUVs) to fulfil the event’s transportation needs.

These SUVs — 10 Cayenne and 30 Macan models — will be easily identified by door decals that brand Porsche as the official automotive partner of the WTA Finals. The vehicles will be deployed to ferry players and officials from the moment they arrive in Singapore right up to the time they depart the country from Changi Airport.

During the second-half of October, these cars will be a highly visible presence around Singapore. The players and WTA staff will not only be travelling from hotels to the Singapore Indoor Stadium, where the tournament is held, but also visiting schools and tennis centres, and attending charity and promotional events around the city state as part of WTA’s outreach programme.

“There will be high visibility of WTA activities and you will see our cars on the road frequently, so it’s a great opportunity for us to get involved in the event,” notes Drier. “As an automotive partner, we enjoy a very good and extensive cooperation with the WTA that really benefits both sides.”

Francis Lee, managing director of Stuttgart Auto, which is the official distributor for the German marque in Singapore, agrees that the enhanced brand awareness from collaborating with a prestigious high-profile event fully justifies the investment by both parties. “All the 40 cars that we are using for the event have already been pre-sold with the conditions laid down clearly to buyers,” he says. “Their cars will be used for only a certain number of days with the mileage capped at a certain limit, so their cars will still be new. Plus they get a discount on the price.”

The discount ranges from $10,000 on the smaller Macan SUVs to $15,000 for the larger Cayenne models. For the reduced pricing, the new owners will receive cars that have already been effectively “run-in” with engines that can adapt immediately to being driven at higher revolutions. The owners are also assured of premium servicing and care for their cars during the two weeks of use.

The total cost of the discounts for the 40 cars provided works out to $450,000, which Lee reveals is shared between the local distributor, Stuttgart Auto, and the regional office of its principal, Porsche. “We are also providing all the logistics for the cars — that is, the required drivers from a professional limousine company and so on. That works out to another $200,000 in cost for both of us,” he adds.

But the money spent is worthwhile, as association with sporting success brings business success in the long run. Drier says Porsche’s long association with tennis and relationship with Angelique Kerber as Porsche Brand Ambassador, who has risen to world No 1 in women’s tennis, has reaped returns well beyond what the carmaker expected when it embarked on the journey nearly 40 years ago.

“It goes beyond tennis. As a car manufacturer, the most important sport for us has been motor sport,” says Drier. “We are the biggest race-car manufacturer in the world and the most successful one. We are world champions of the World Endurance Championship competition and are once again leading this year — there is no other manufacturer that has won it more often.”

The long association with such a success translates to a brand name of excellence in Porsche cars. While tennis may not create a similar perception, linking Porsche to the popularity of tennis expands public awareness of the brand beyond its traditional domain of motorsports. Current and prospective Porsche owners also benefit from a brand that is regularly in the public eye.

“What do we get in return for spending our money?” asks Lee rhetorically. “Of course, we get publicity, we get brand exposure, but at the same time, our customers also benefit in other ways. For example, those who bought the cars being used at the WTA event will enjoy access to The Racquet Club (hospitality suite) through complimentary passes that will be made available for their use. We want our owners to also be able to enjoy some benefits just as we have benefited from our association with tennis and the WTA.”

This article appeared in the Options of Issue 751 (Oct 24) of The Edge Singapore.

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