Sport & Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) - The Case of VFL Wolfsburg

Samandeep Chohan

Makis Karteros

Posted: September 29, 2014

Report on a presentation given during the 2014 EASM conference

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is slowly but surely making the front page headlines. Recently, we have understood this from an academic point of view, but how does it work in practice? This is where Nico Briskorn comes in. The head of CSR at German outlet VFL Wolfsburg gave the audience an in depth understanding of what happens behind closed doors.

Firstly, Briskorn demonstrates two key factors which are essential to VFL Wolfsburg – ‘Sporting Success’ and ‘Strategic Targets’. He goes on to state how German culture has a very tightknit ethos. There’s a strong responsibility from a clubs point of view to ‘look after’ its society. Throughout the city there are many opportunities for expansion – the city is sustainable, still being born and has potential from a business outlook.

One industry which thrives within Germany is sport, and within sport, football seems to be the prevailing answer. Even though football is sustainable, clubs still welcome investment and ideas. Every elite team will tell you they welcome improved ideas. Having said this, what Wolfsburg do is unfamiliar.

Strategy and Brand Management

Some would argue strategy and brand management are two very different concepts. However, Briskorn combines the two, creating core themes (Wolfsburg CSR core themes); Staff Position, Sustainable Brand Value and Sustainable Target Agreements. They clearly want to ignite an emotional attachment to all associated with the city.

Constantly looking to improve its CSR relationship, VFL Wolfsburg threw in the idea of giving its entire staff members a sense of responsibility (internal communication). They wanted all staff, whether it was part time/full time, superstore worker or director to affiliate with its success. As an example, Wolfsburg at this present time is looking to create a sustainability software, reminding all workers they have a responsibility to maintain its CSR values. Not something you see every day.

Scope of action

Now you’re probably thinking what do they do that sets them apart?

Looking at it from a corporate perspective, VFL Wolfsburg publishes a yearly sustainability report. It gives all parties associated with Wolfsburg the first-hand opportunity to see what the club is achieving. Briskorn goes on to state how timing is a key beneficiary – you don’t want to publish when the club are in a bad spell.

Moreover, VFL Wolfsburg promotes ‘external communication’ – they want fans to benefit. Recently, they created the family brand ‘Moving Together’, signifying everyone moves forward as ‘one’. They encourage the public to participate through different means of engagement. VFL Wolfsburg promote; Health, Integration and Education. As an example, an attractive and unique asset the club deploys is the idea of using an old 1st team bus to promote health. Inside they have an interactive exhibition aimed at all ages. Having also accepted social media in their everyday business, the club produced and installed campaigns such as the ‘Wolfsburg Bike Ride’ via their Twitter and Facebook feeds. Real time images and videos were posted. To say the least, the list of CSR initiatives goes on.

Embracing CSR and witnessing it through a practitioner’s perspective is irreplaceable. From an academics point of view, we understand the role it plays within society but actually hearing how it is embedded within the Wolfsburg public implies it can work. Nonetheless, striking a balance between how your organisation is run and how to illustrate a good deed is difficult. Maybe new signing Nicklas Bendtner can help. However, we can’t all copy VFL Wolfsburg.


About Samandeep Chohan

Samandeep is a recent Sport Management graduate at Coventry University who is seeking employment in the world of sport. He has worked in the ticketing and sales department for Coventry City Football Club, organised and coached sporting events and written for sporting blogs from the age of 16. Samandeep’s email address – chouhan3@uni.coventry.ac.uk

About Makis Karteros

Makis is currently writing a PhD on investment in human capital and its impact on football club’s performance.  He has been involved in the sports industry in many ways having worked for professional football clubs, media organisations and IT companies, in Greece and India.