IEPlus: Polo pitches for top sponsorship
In the glamour and exclusivity stakes, polo has few peers, and a new generation of sponsors is underpinning the sport’s rapidly growing popularity worldwide.
Polo is played in 77 countries. Europe’s thriving community is led by clubs such as Spain’s legendary Santa Maria Polo Club in Sotogrande, the Real Polo Club of Barcelona (more than 10,000 members) and Argentario in Tuscany, Italy.
There are over 30 polo venues registered in France and dozens in England, where clubs such as Guards, Cowdray Park and Beaufort still carry the flame for purists worldwide. Now, with new backing and an enduring association with royalty, wealth and glamour, polo is enjoying a renaissance.
Tournaments are turning increasingly commercial, presenting sponsor-friendly new formats like snow polo (St Moritz World Cup) and arena sand polo (Sandbanks in Dorset, UK), all touting lavish branding with a zeal that easily matches football or Formula One.
The attraction is understandable. Popularised polo in exotic locations associates sponsors with a thrilling sport where the raw skill, speed and gladiatorial nature of the on-field contest is up close, while off-field spectators can also enjoy fashion shows, food halls, concerts, parties and exhibitions. Some critics fear the professional ethos of a testing game may be undermined by a drive to achieve the contradictory goal of extending reach while retaining exclusivity, but protests have been muted by the evident success of the top commercialised events.
A newly launched City Polo series takes in iconic global financial centres, starting with Coutts Polo at the Palace, where international teams play over two days on one of the finest fields in the world, set in the gardens of the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.
The European season kicks off in April and in the UK now includes the hugely popular MINT Polo in the Park, played at the Hurlingham Club in London, a prime sponsorship claimed by MINT Partners, a division of BGC Brokers. Other financial sponsors, backing teams from London, Moscow, Sydney, Delhi, Abu Dhabi and Buenos Aires, include Russian broker Otkritie and spread betting firm IG Index.
Financial institutions say polo represents the values they cherish. Among the latest converts are Deutsche Bank (St Moritz Cup) and Luxembourg’s Banque Havilland (Hurtwood Park Polo Club, UK). “Passion, precision and dedication characterize the sport,” enthuses Deutsche’s promotional pitch. “These outstanding qualities are also embodied in Deutsche Bank’s corporate culture.”
Additionally, the prestige of philanthropy is never far from the polo agenda. Since 2003 the Swiss banking group Valartis has been the principal sponsor of the annual Snow Polo World Cup in Kitzbühel, Austria, with proceeds going to the Austrian development group ICEP, which helps ambitious micro entrepreneurs in Nairobi, Kenya.
Follow InvestmentEurope’s weekly polo blog from 8 April to 7 June at www.investmenteurope.net, in association with MINT Polo in the Park, London.