Remember Yingli Solar?
Perhaps you saw the name plastered on advertisement boards at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. And you’ll see it again at Brazil 2014.
That’s because the NYSE-listed, China-headquartered Yingli Solar—the world’s largest solar-panel supplier by volume—is one of the eight FIFA World Cup “sponsors” (a level below “partners”, of which there are six). In 2010, it claims to have become the first renewable energy and the first Chinese company to sponsor the championship.
For all that, Yingi Solar, or Yingli Green Energy Holding Company Limited as it’s known on the NYSE, hasn’t registered a profit in the last 10 quarters.
And its performance on the NYSE has been lackluster, to put it mildly.
The eight World Cup sponsors spend a combined $500 million or so on the event, according to Analytic Partners, a marketing consulting firm, which also contends that it is difficult to measure the return on investment for such deals.
In an interview with China’s Global Times, however, a Yingli Solar spokesperson estimated the profit from its 2010 World Cup advertising spree at $50 million, without giving details. The company’s profits did spike in the quarters immediately after the championship, but then plunged dramatically.
Yingli Solar is convinced that sponsoring one of the world’s most widely viewed sporting events is immensely valuable. “After our 2010 FIFA World Cup sponsorship, we saw a tremendous increase in our brand awareness and inquiries for our products,” Yingli’s chairman Liansheng Miao said in a 2011 statement announcing the company’s sponsorship of the Brazil World Cup. “This particular FIFA World Cup will ensure not only brand exposure into Brazil, one of the largest consumers of energy in South America, but all around the world,” the statement added.
True, this isn’t a particularly good time for the solar industry. A combination of the financial crisis, subsidy cuts and overcapacity have hurt it, though it may slowly be recovering now. Yingli is taking a big bet that its World Cup sponsorship will pay off better this time than last time.