England

Do high-profile footballers help sell cars?

Composite of high profile footballers in a variety of cars.
Image caption Footballers are known for their love of cars, but this is not necessarily a good thing for the brands.

Cars and footballers. Footballers and cars. They go together like grass and goalposts - or so you may assume.

It is a common belief that footballers want cars, and car manufacturers want to shine in their publicity.

But for some elite car brands, this can be a hard line to tread.

Now Nissan - in what it says is an environmentally-minded effort - is providing 11 electric cars to Forest Green Rovers, in a bid to slash the club's carbon emissions.

This is all a far cry from the reputation of a football training ground car park full of exotic sports cars and 4x4s.

Audi UK currently has a sponsorship agreement with Chelsea Football Club, but the company said this did not incorporate a formal car placement programme.

One active player, however, currently does have the use of an Audi, but a spokesman for the brand declined to discuss the terms of that placement.

He added: "Associating the Audi brand and its cars with the sporting elite in the eyes of a multitude of fans brings benefits in terms of exposure and cut-through which of course can't be underestimated.

"We highly value our relationship with Chelsea just as our sister companies in Spain, Italy and Germany do theirs with Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, AC Milan and Bayern Munich."

'Offences and excess'

In 2011 England and Manchester United star Wayne Rooney was invited to help launch the multi-million pound Bristol Audi centre - during which he gave short interviews about his love of the Audi R8 supercar.

But motoring journalist Matt Joy said: "Publicly the more exclusive manufactures aren't often open about associations with footballers - there's a catalogue of driving offences and excess that goes with them.

"But the reality is they are amongst their best customers, often spending a great deal on options and personalisation and with the sport's biggest names often making headlines, it's always better to have them snapped getting out of your car than a rival's."

Image caption Cristiano Ronaldo's Ferrari was written off near Manchester Airport in 2009

Highlighting the down side of such an association, motoring writer Zog Ziegler added: "A friend of mine, who used to be a head of PR for Ferrari in the UK, said the office would collectively wince if any Man Utd player bought a Ferrari.

"'The customer is the customer' was the line - but they thought it did their image no good.

"Bentleys used to be driven by gentleman. Now it's driven by new money, comedians and footballers, also known as oik'ballers.

"It might sell cars, but sometimes to the wrong market."

And the manufacturers themselves are mostly unwilling to comment on their relationship with high-profile footballers.

A spokesman for Ferrari said: "Ferrari does not have any sponsorship deals or such arrangements with any footballers or other sports stars or celebrities.

"We also do not ask our clients to represent our brand, nor do we put our clients forward for media activity.

"All we can say is that footballers, celebrities and other high-profile people who are buying our cars are doing so because they want to be a Ferrari owner, not because the brand has any relationship of a promotional nature."

Aston Martin also said it did not offer sponsorship deals, while Jaguar Land Rover declined to comment and BMW was not available for comment.

'Eco-credentials'

But all of this has not put off Nissan teaming up with Blue Square Bet Premier league football club Forest Green Rovers.

One of the biggest environmental impacts from football and other professional sports is the carbon emissions from travelling, for both athletes and supporters.

Nissan said they were working with the Gloucestershire club - owned by green energy tycoon, Vince Dale - because of their eco credentials.

Image caption Forest Green Rovers players commute in electric cars from Birmingham, the Home Counties and across the West Country

The stadium is powered by solar panels and wind power, while matches are played on a pitch trimmed by a solar-powered robot lawnmower - the "Mowbot".

The manufacturer has initially supplied the cars on loan for a trial period until the end of the year.

Mr Dale, who runs green electricity company Ecotricity, said the move could cut emissions by 80%.

"We worked out that each week our playing squad could cover almost 10,000 miles travelling to and from training in Gloucestershire," he said.

"Over the course of a season that adds up to almost 430,000 miles and generates more than 135,000kg of CO2."

Forest Green manager David Hockaday, got his electric car four weeks ago. But do his players rib him about his new wheels?

"Straight away I've had players coming up to me asking: 'Gaffer when do I get one?' That says it all," he said.

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