Ask any business, however great or small, whether Corporate Social Responsibility matters to them and they will almost certainly say 'yes'.
The number of brands that have made the sort of commitment Mercedes-Benz has done in its partnership with Laureus is open to debate.
Utilising its Formula 1 stars and global profile, Mercedes-Benz has been an integral part of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation since its creation in 2000.
Calacus caught up with Dr. Jens Thiemer, Vice President Marketing Mercedes-Benz Cars, to find out why Laureus matters so much.
Q:Mercedes-Benz is one of the most famous brands in the world, let alone motor brands. What are the prime motivations for Mercedes-Benz supporting Laureus?
A: The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation was created in 2000, with Mercedes-Benz as one of the founders. Together, over the years, we have made long term improvements to the lives of millions of young people - and the work goes on. Mercedes-Benz believes in giving back to society and the support for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation is Mercedes-Benz's most important involvement in the field of corporate social responsibility. We support and promote the aims and values of this worldwide non-profit-making programme, which seeks to improve the lives of ill or disadvantaged children and young people through the use of sport.
Q: Why is Laureus such a good fit for Mercedes-Benz?
A: Mercedes-Benz has been actively supporting professional and amateur sport for decades and has become established as a dependable partner in the fields of motor sport, football, golf, horse riding and tennis. We can look back on a tradition that stretches back over more than 125 years. But more than that, Mercedes-Benz also believes in giving back to society and helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Much of this is achieved through our work with Laureus. Laureus currently helps more than 150 sports-based community projects in 35 countries and since its inception in 2000 has supported projects which have improved the lives of millions of young people.
Q: How has your support or input evolved over the years?
A: Laureus, with the backing of Mercedes-Benz, supported its first project in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2000 – the Mathare Youth Sports Association. Based in one of the largest and poorest slums in Africa, with disease widespread and AIDS a serious problem, the project had pioneered the use of football as a tool to encourage co-operation and raise self-esteem in the young people of the community. Over 14,000 youngsters play in over 90 football leagues, where success is measured not just by the goals scored in matches, but by the work the young people do in cleaning up the slums. Young people who have been involved in MYSA since the beginning, have become role models and youth leaders in their community. Almost 16 years on, Laureus still supports that project – along with 150 others. Mercedes-Benz has been there throughout that time offering its support and encouragement.
Q: What has been the most successful element of your partnership with Laureus?
A: It has been a real partnership. Mercedes-Benz is not a sponsor of Laureus, it is a partner in its global work. Working with the Laureus World Sports Academy, a collection of the greatest living sports legends who volunteer their time to Laureus, is a unique way to help disadvantaged young people through the use of sport. We take the greatest pleasure in every single individual who takes part in a Laureus project and whose life is better as a result, One of the Academy Members, Nawal El Moutawakel, the great Moroccan Olympic hurdles champion, now a member of the International Olympic Committee, once said: “We cannot change the world overnight, but we can start one playing field at a time.". You could also paraphrase that, and say “one child at a time.” Every time we help just one person, it is justification for why we, at Mercedes-Benz, are doing this.
Q: What were the key strategic ambitions for Mercedes-Benz in Shanghai ahead of and during the Awards?
A: In Shanghai, we announced an ongoing partnership between Laureus and Mercedes-Benz which will ultimately bring about the development of the Laureus China Sport for Good Foundation, benefitting hundreds of thousands of young people throughout the country by targeting the improvement of the quality of physical education in teenagers across the nation through projects such as the Laureus Training Programme and Hope School Sports Charity Programme. The aim is that Laureus will train over 1,000 PE teachers at Hope Schools nationwide by late 2016, covering 400 new schools, thereby improving the quality of physical education for more than 100,000 teenagers.
Q: You announced the sale of an AMG car ahead of Awards night with funds going to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. Can you tell us a bit more about that and the success of the handover event in Shanghai?
A: Yes, a selected AMG customer purchased the 100th Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 Customer Sports car. The Laureus special model carried a considerable extra fee, so the proceeds from the sale of the car went entirely to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. Together with the Mercedes-AMG performance and sports car brand, a total sum of 250,000 euros was made available to the Foundation for its project work. Former Formula 1 racing driver Mika Häkkinen, who is a Laureus World Sports Academy Member, handed over the SLS AMG GT3 to the customer in Shanghai on the red carpet at the Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony.
Q: Laureus livery was added to the Mercedes F1 cars ahead of the Shanghai GP – and of course, Nico Rosberg’s #DriveForGood initiative throughout 2015 season; Mercedes-Benz to donate 100 euros for every kilometre he leads. How will that initiative be leveraged throughout the F1 season?
A: It’s a great idea and it’s pretty simple. Nico Rosberg is a Laureus Ambassador and for every kilometre he leads in the World Championship this year, Laureus will receive 100 euros from Mercedes-Benz. I can’t do any better than to repeat what Nico said himself when he announced this initiative at the Shanghai Grand Prix.
He said: “Laureus is a cause that is very close to my heart and I am very proud to work as an Ambassador for the Foundation. It’s a source of great inspiration for me to see the fantastic work that the Foundation is doing for children round the world. Sport and competition taught me a lot about hard work, determination and respect when I was growing up, so hopefully I can demonstrate that and maybe provide a bit of inspiration of my own.
The #DriveForGood campaign is a wonderful next step as it combines my determination to lead as many laps as possible in every race with a good cause; thank you for Mercedes-Benz for their generosity in supporting the Foundation in this way. I probably shouldn’t say this, but hopefully I will cost the company a lot of money in donations this year!”
Q: From a commercial point of view, what impact will your support of Laureus have on the profile of Mercedes-Benz in China?
A: As I explained earlier, as a large company with a responsible attitude, Mercedes-Benz understands the importance of having a corporate social responsibility programme. In the modern world, business and social responsibility go together.
Q: Do you have any new plans or initiatives in the pipeline in collaboration with Laureus for the rest of 2015 that you could share?
A: Mercedes-Benz work with Laureus is always evolving. You only need to look at the initiatives supported by Mercedes-Benz so far. We just announced a new three-year plan, worth US$10.5 million to support the work of Laureus in the United States until 2017 and in Shanghai we announced our plans to invest more than €7 million in China. This is a massive commitment which we are very proud to undertake and there are more significant plans for the future which we will be announcing in due course. Watch this space.