The countdown to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar has officially begun as World Cup winner Marcel Desailly joined Hublot to begin the celebrations as the clock ticks down to kick off.
Following the event Sport360 sat down with Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe to talk about the brand’s partnership with the tournament and how the watch brand has used football to grow the brand name around the world.
How excited are you for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar?
Very excited, it’s our fourth time with FIFA and it’s been great so far, there’s less than a year to go and already people are looking forward to it. As a watch brand we more or less own the football territory as we have been investing heavily since 2008, when we started at the Euro 2008 in Switzerland, so now with the Champions League and the Premier League we cover a lot of football.
You were in Doha for the countdown event, what is the atmosphere like in Qatar?
The country is very much behind it and it’s the first time taking place in the Middle East so we are excited. I have seen some of the stadiums and the good thing is they are very close together so we can watch three games in one day, which is very unique for a World Cup. The farthest distance is just 70kms, so under one hour away. Every World Cup is different, Brazil was something special because it is a footballing country and Russia had its own vibe as well. In Qatar, we plan to build something in the desert and give fans a special experience, we have one thousands guests coming.
How does the World Cup partnership compare to other sports you’re involved in?
The World Cup is the number one event in terms of visibility even more so than the Olympics. We did the Euros this year but of course not all regions follow this tournament, which is the beauty of the World Cup, it’s on another level, we reach billions of people. We believe every four years is right, not every two years, because people will get tired of it so this is the right amount. We have to take care of the players as well, Didier Deschamps told me he will only have his team one week prior to the World Cup starting, so lets hope there is not a lot of injuries and things.
What is the best thing for Hublot about partnering with the World Cup?
We cannot calculate if we sell more watches, it’s just about people being aware of our brand. We only make a few thousand watches a year and so we cannot make them for the billions of people who see the brand at the tournament but we want people around the world to know the brand and we know not everyone can afford our watches but it’s a very aspirational approach for us. We chose football because it’s the best sport for brand awareness, especially now we have the fourth official board in the shape of the watch. People know that Hublot is a watch brand because of activations like this. Football has been fantastic for us and FIFA was the first to accept the fourth official board in the shape of a timepiece. We discussed with the FIFA marketing team and they convinced Mr. Blatter at that time that it was a good idea and it has been great for Hublot. Now it has come something acceptable as a sponsorship tool in other tournaments.
Do you have a favourite sports partnership/activation you can tell us about?
Watching Spain win in South Africa was the best experience. The worst was watching Brazil lose 7-1 against Germany as I was there and surrounded by Brazilians who were very unhappy!
At what point did you decide to ramp up Hublot’s involvement in sport?
The origin of Hublot is linked with yachting and sailing so when we came in 2004 it was a small, confidential brand, and we wanted to accelerate the name. Even my friends in Switzerland didn’t know the brand that well. In sport it’s not always possible to come on board as a watch brand, tennis and golf already have their watch brands involved and it happened that no watch brand was involved in football at the time so we said ok there was potential for us to get involved. And also the Euros was in Switzerland and we needed a watch brand to be present at the tournament so we took the opportunity and saw that there was a good response so we took it from there.
Which former sports star would you liked to have signed as a friend of the brand?
Well we have Pele who is a living legend but Muhammad Ali would have been great. We got Floyd Mayweather previously – we did his fights against Pacquiao and McGregor. We also had Maradona who was my favourite because I remember seeing him win the World Cup in 1986. I met him a few times as well.
Hublot sponsors a lot of football competitions around the world will you invest in leagues or clubs in the Middle East?
We can’t do it all, so there are no plans at the moment. We have to decide where we want to be and that is the best, which is why we work with FIFA, UEFA and the Premier League. That doesn’t mean we can’t do local things, we did things with Al Wasl when Maradona was the coach, so local markets really depends on a number of things before we decide to invest.
What is your stance on e-sports, will there be a Hublot team anytime soon?
Well we are on FIFA games with the referee boards so we are kind of involved already but we didn’t find the right kind of support yet. E-gaming, not just e-sports is of interest because we know it’s a big thing now but we must find the right angle before we enter a team.