As well as building cars and providing mobility services, the Volkswagen Group also promotes a united Europe – in society, culture and sport.
Europe is Volkswagen’s home. The twelve Group brands come from seven European countries, and no fewer than 69 production sites on the old continent belong to the Group. What many people do not know is that Volkswagen is not only the largest car manufacturer in Europe and on the way to becoming a leading mobility service provider, but it also makes a considerable contribution to European intercultural exchange through its commitments to sport, culture and civil society.
Volkswagen’s commitment to Europe is rooted in tradition. Even before the first European election in 1979, Volkswagen published a comprehensive article on all the election issues, as well as an advertisement calling on people to vote, in its employee magazine “autogramm”. Forty years later, in 2019, Volkswagen remains faithful to this pro-European line. “The European Union is a guarantor of peace, freedom, prosperity and free trade,” emphasized Board Member for HR Gunnar Kilian at the company’s New Year reception in Brussels. “A united Europe is our future.” He added that it is now more important than ever to maintain this unity and the advantages of the union. The Group is playing its part in this through a large number of projects and initiatives.
More Than 70 Years of Peace in Europe
With a view to the European Union as a peace project, the work on the memorial center at the former extermination camp Auschwitz is one of the most important projects of all. For over 30 years, the Volkswagen Group has been active in memorial work together with the International Auschwitz Committee, and has organized international youth meetings in what is now called Oświęcim.
Over 3,000 Polish and German young people, vocational students from Poland and apprentices from the Volkswagen Group have participated so far. The apprentices actively help to maintain the memorial sites in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau and to preserve them as places of memorial. The aim of the program is to promote awareness of Volkswagen’s historical and present responsibility, resulting from its role during the National Socialist period. In addition, the program promotes exchanges between apprentices from the two countries. Cosmopolitanism, tolerance and respect are among the self-evident components of vocational training in an international company like Volkswagen.
Since 2008, a management program has also existed, in which 450 forewomen, foremen and managers have participated so far. Meetings with contemporary witnesses and Holocaust survivors are on the agenda. The International Auschwitz Committee accompanies these encounters and study trips. They are an integral part of Volkswagen’s culture of remembrance.
Sport Crosses Borders
Top-level sport fascinates people from all backgrounds, and none more so than the mass phenomenon of football. “No other sport is as strong and unites so many people as football,” emphasizes Volkswagen’s Chairman of the Board of Management, Herbert Diess. Therefore, Volkswagen is not only the partner of the German Football Association and the national team as of this year, but also the new mobility partner of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) for the European Football Championship in 2020. On the occasion of the championship’s 60th anniversary, it will be played in 12 countries for the first time next year. “The 2020 European Championship, which will be played across the whole continent, is a fantastic project. We want to contribute to building bridges between all the countries and for the football fans with our mobility and creativity,” said Diess when announcing the sponsorship in August 2017.
However, Volkswagen is not just crossing its fingers for the German national team at the EURO 2020. The car brand is also the partner of other national associations: France, the reigning world champion, is one of them, but they also include Switzerland, Austria, Finland and Luxembourg. Meanwhile, SEAT in Spain is crossing its fingers for the Spanish team as their sponsor.
As well as the EURO 2020, Volkswagen will also be a sponsor of the UEFA Women’s Euro, the UEFA Under-21 Championships, the Futsal European Championship and the finals of the newly created UEFA Nations League.
The Group is also very active in club sport. At its headquarters in Wolfsburg, the Volkswagen brand supports the local club VfL, founded in 1945 as “Verein für Leibesübungen Wolfsburg”, which originated from the “Betriebssportgemeinschaft Volkswagenwerk”, founded in 1938, as well as the town’s ice hockey club, the Grizzlys. In the premier league, Audi is the partner of well-known football clubs such as Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur. In addition, Audi supports its local Federal League clubs, FC Ingolstadt and TSG Hoffenheim.
In addition, the company from Ingolstadt is involved in winter sports, supporting the Austrian and Italian Ski Federations. The Volkswagen brand sponsors the Swedish Ski Federation. This example shows that sports sponsorship is as international as the Group itself: “Traditionally, the brands get involved with sports sponsorship in locations near to their sites”, explains Gerd Voss, head of Volkswagen Sports Communication. “This runs like a network throughout Europe.”
ŠKODA is a prime example of sports sponsorship in the European style. Since 2004, the Czech brand has been supporting an event which represents a Europe without borders: the Tour de France. Because, contrary to what its name suggests, the stages of the great French tour regularly lead to other EU countries such as Italy, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland and Great Britain.
To this end, ŠKODA has been a partner and sponsor of amateur and popular cycling for many years. It has also been the main sponsor of the ice hockey world championship for more than 25 years. ŠKODA even has an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest main sponsorship in the history of sporting world championships.
Cultural Sponsorship as a Unifying Factor
The European Union aspires to preserve Europe’s common cultural heritage, as well as to promote art and the creative industry in Europe. Volkswagen contributes to this, as the Group and its brands enable many people to experience art and culture, thus making a social contribution to the promotion of cultural education.
This takes place on both a large and a small scale – for example, by supporting the Junge Kunst Wolfsburg association. For the last 20 years, Volkswagen has been sponsoring this association’s work. Its members are predominantly volunteers who facilitate interactions with innovative artistic positions. Exhibitions, urban projects and education programs enable diverse encounters with young artists from all over Europe. For many young artists, it is the very first public acknowledgement of their work.
Volkswagen has a larger-scale partnership with the Nationalgalerie, one of the Berlin State Museums. The aim of the cooperation is to enable as many people as possible access to culture, and thus to strengthen cultural education in society. Through this partnership, which was inaugurated in 2013, Volkswagen is sponsoring one of the most important museum institutions in Europe, the Nationalgalerie, which displays a collection of international art from 1800 to the present day in a total of five buildings. These comprise the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Hamburger Bahnhof, the Neue Nationalgalerie, the Museum Berggruen and the Scharf-Gerstenberg collection.
Since 2018, under the motto “ART4ALL”, the well-known Berlin museum Hamburger Bahnhof has been inviting the public to experience one of the world’s most important collections of contemporary art free of charge on every first Thursday of the month. This has been made possible by Volkswagen. From 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm, visitors can explore the current exhibitions and, in addition, make use of an interdisciplinary program of lectures, artist interviews, performances and multilingual tours.
Volkswagen was commended for this initiative by winning the Corporate Art Award during the “Art Patrons of the XXI Century” program in November 2018. The award ceremony took place in the European Parliament in Brussels as part of the “European artistic heritage” theme year.
This year, the Volkswagen Group is also supporting the second edition of the Weimar cultural symposium. The event series organized by the Goethe Institute discusses global social issues. The title of the Weimar cultural symposium is: “Recalculating the route”.