When you think of China, the breakneck sport of ice hockey is probably one of the last things that springs to mind.
with soccer, baseball and even American Football having already made inroads, it was perhaps only a matter of time before the fastest team sport on the planet also started to penetrate the world’s most heavily populated country.
’s Akzo Nobel got to do with all this? Well, CEO Hans Wijers has made no secret of the fact that the company views China as one of its most important global markets, with sales of a billion euros targeted within the next few years. Then there’s the company’s clear ambition to become the number one coatings company in China, something else Wijers has stated publicly.
you’ve got an exciting, dynamic sport and a major international company, both looking for the same thing—to make a real impact in China. The result? Akzo Nobel and its Decorative Coatings business (via the Levis® brand) are sponsoring the new Nordic Vikings ice hockey team, which was formed earlier this year.
in Beijing and part of the Asia League, the team was established by Swedish financial and event company the Nordic Vikings Group with two fundamental aims in mind—to help develop ice hockey in China and raise its profile, and encourage businesses (especially in the Nordic region) to pursue business opportunities in Asia.
“This type of sponsorship is a new experience for us in China,” said Jan Andersson, general manager of Akzo Nobel’s Decorative Coatings International business. “But we hope, and believe, that this cooperation will result in a positive impact on customers for our brands and products.
“We think this agreement will help us further in marketing our paints for aesthetics, protection and maintenance, especially towards the growing Chinese construction activities.”
Nobel has been present in China with its Levis brand since 1990 and the company recently expanded its decorative coatings activities in the country by opening a new factory in Suzhou. An agreement has also been signed to acquire the coatings activities of Guangzhou Toide Manufacturing Co., a deal which will make Akzo Nobel the fourth biggest manufacturer of emulsion paint in China.
“Our efforts to grow and expand can be seen as a parallel to the Nordic Vikings project,” added Andersson. “With its knowledge and skills, the Swedish organization will also encourage growth and help to build up and advance ice hockey in China.”
team itself is heavily supported by imported talent, with a number of Swedish players included on the roster, which features six Chinese recruits, along with two coaches. They play against teams from China, Korea and Japan, with some of the games actually scheduled to take place in the Nordic region.
Vikings are based at Beijing’s Shouti Arena, where Akzo Nobel is well represented, with both the corporate brand and Levis logos being prominently displayed on dasher boards around the playing surface. The Vikings’ early season success is also pulling in the crowds, with the team topping the league and boasting a 100 percent home record by the beginning of November. So they look strong favorites to make the play-offs in February.
will ensure more positive exposure for Akzo Nobel, as well as making Nordic Vikings CEO Per-Erik Holmström a happy man. “The overall idea is to export and use Nordic ice hockey skill for developing ice hockey in Asia and, by doing this, offer Nordic companies business opportunities,” he said.
“We have the full backing of the International Ice Hockey Federation and valuable support from our sponsors, as well as strong demand from the league itself. So all efforts in helping the sport to grow in China and Asia will be of interest to whole ice hockey world.”