Euro 2012 to bring high-end corporate culture to Ukraine
Length of time in Ukraine: 1.5 years
Position: Commercial manager in Ukraine for the Union of European Football Associations.
Tips for succeeding in Ukraine: Don’t compromise on standards of quality that you would expect in Western European countries. You need to search and challenge partners and suppliers a bit more because, in the end, there are a lot talented people willing to deliver to the same standards that you would get anywhere else in the world.
The Euro 2O12 football championship is not just about football. It’s also about the money — prizes for teams, profits for vendors and a big financial windfall for the organizer, the Union of European Football Associations.
The commercial side to the tournament, which takes place every fouryears, is what brought Thibaut Potdevin to Kyiv from UEFA’s headquarters in Switzerland
When Ukraine was chosen with Poland to co-host the Euro 2012 football championship, UEFA knew there would be difficulties. Both nations needed to invest billions of dollars in stadiums, roads and airport improvements. But also the notion of corporate packages for football games was lacking in both nations. And the
revenue from those sponsors
make up a substantial part of UEFA’s income.
"If you want to invite your business partner to the game, you need not just a normal ticket with a sandwich and a sausage, you need to do it like you invite this person to a lunch for a five-star experience," Potdevin explains. "It is a Ukrainian businesses opportunity to use the tournament as a business tool."
Ukrainian companies are catching on. Some four months before the official beginning of the championship, the majority of corporate packages have been sold to international and local companies of different sizes. Among the customers are leading Ukrainian investment bank Dragon Capital and telecom company Datagroup.
"At this moment on the VIP tickets side, it’s amazing - we’ve sold out the Kyiv and Kharkiv stadium skyboxes. The hospitality program of Euro 2012 is amazingly successful in Ukraine," Potdevin said. There are still chances for businesses to buy the few remaining skyboxes in Lviv and Donetsk. Overall, UEFA has a Euro 2012 sales target for both Ukraine and Poland of 100 million euros for corporate hospitality and 115 million euros for regular tickets.
In his five years of working at UEFA, this is Potdevin’s second Euro championship. The previous tournament was hosted by Switzerland and Austria in 2008.
But this time in Ukraine, it’s a completely different experience for Potdevin.
"When we delivered the European championship in Switzerland and Austria, it was just a big sports event, among others, for those spoiled countries," Potdevin said. "But here the first thing I understood is that Euro is much bigger for Ukraine than it would be for any other Western European country. In Ukraine, the passion for the sport is amazing."
Before his career at UEFA, the former journalist took a marketing position with Agence France-Presse. His arrival coincided with the World Cup, and his job was to make money for the news agency from the event.
"We made huge money. I got the agency to pay attention to the corporate market, namely the top sponsors of the sport events and create some very advanced tools for the sponsors to activate their marketing and sponsorship rights," Potdevin said. "That is what got the attention of the UEFA."
Potdevin had been interested in the CIS region before, and — when he found out Ukraine would be a co-host - decided to express his interest in getting involved in the tournament locally. "I’m the only expat from the UEFA’s permanent staff in Ukraine," he said.
Although he’s not complaining, working in Ukraine is an "extremely different" experience, with Soviet hangovers such as official stamps required to do business. "It was a funny moment, when I asked the legal department of UEFA to manufacture a stamp because no one was using stamps anymore at UEFA for years and years," he said.
Potdevin’s job means he probably won’t get a chance to watch the tournament’s football games because of work. "All the people on this floor are going to be working on every of those nights. When the last whistle at the final game happens, then we’re done," he said.
Kyiv Post staff writer Maryna Irkliyenko can be reached at irkliyenko@kyivpost