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Tata Steel and chess: the longest sports sponsorship?

Jan 28, 2017
StaffCoach 1312

In 1938, Hoogovens lend its name to the first edition of a small chess tournament in Beverwijk. 79 years later, the steel company – now Tata Steel – is still the tournament’s main sponsor. Although the company has seen some rough times, the sponsorship seems cast in steel. “Tata Steel and chess have a long shared history”, Theo Henrar says, chairman of the directors of Tata Steel Nederland. “And a bright future as well.”

With the sponsorship on the brink of its 80th year, the question arises how exceptional such a long sports sponsorship is. The answer is: pretty exceptional, though not unique. There are more super long sports sponsonships deals, but Tata Steel is probably in the world's top-ten. 

Other long sponsorships:

  • Slazenger provided its first balls to Wimbledon in 1902 and still does.
  • In 1904, pharmaceutical company Bayer allowed its workforce to take part in organized gymnastic activities and even supported the new club: Bayer Leverkusen (today’s TSV Bayer 04).
  • In 1913, a club was founded for Philips employees in Eindhoven (Netherlands). It’s name: Philips Sport Vereniging, internationally known as PSV Eindhoven.
  • Ford has been sponsor of the Geelong Cats Football Club (Australia) since 1925.

Tata Steel is proud to sponsor the chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee. “Tata Steel and Tata Steel Chess are inseparable”, says Henrar. “They go hand in hand. Plotting and delivering is what Tata Steel and Chess have in common. Sponsoring an intellectual sport is a deliberate choice.”

Strategic thinking skills

To the steel company, employers who have a high level of strategic thinking, are essential. Both Henrar and Jacques Schraven, chairman supervisory board Tata Steel Nederland, underline the importance of enabling children to learn chess. “The technology sector needs people with highly developed thinking skills”, Henrar states. Schraven: “The kids program of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament is very important to us. I hope it helps to advance chess and make it more popular with young people.”

The company is looking forward to next year’s double celebration. In 2018, the chess tournament's 80th edition will coincide with the steel company 100th anniversary. 

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