Back in the fall of 2013, SAP began to rethink our idea of what sponsorship with the German Soccer Association (DFB) could be. We committed to “Sponsorships 2.0” with “co-innovation” at its center.

That fall we invited members of the coaching and scouting teams to a design workshop at Stanford University and SAP’s labs in Palo Alto, California, setting the foundation for a strong relationship of trust and partnership.

In the years since we first began working together, SAP has become part of DFB’s DNA, and vice versa, rendering traditional sponsorship components such as logo placement less important. We are a part of each other, acting with shared passion and purpose, culminating in a shared victory at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Corporate Sponsorships Reimagined is a series documenting the experiences of SAP sponsorship partners, in their own words.

But as with any partnership, it should continue to evolve. What does our shared “North Star” look like? The answer is easy: the DFB’s new Academy, which German media has called “the project of the century.” Headed up by the general manager of the German national team and soccer legend Oliver Bierhoff, the dream is to turn this facility into the Silicon Valley of soccer.

Now I find myself on an 18-month loan within the DFB to get the new Academy’s technology lab up and running. This externship is yet another great step forward, not only for SAP and the DFB, but also a new industry benchmark for integrated partnerships.

With full support from SAP CEO Bill McDermott, I am literally activating this partnership in the most human way possible — I have become “one of them.”

While the Academy doors won’t open until 2020, we are working to proactively set up the technology lab and ensure the proper processes, infrastructure, and partner ecosystem are in place. The objective of the tech lab is to enhance the performance of Germany’s elite soccer players. To be successful, I am looking mainly at two elements from a technology standpoint:

  • Soccer performance (performance analysis, scouting and soccer methodology)
  • Human performance (sports science, medicine, and human science)

In other words, I am looking at the entire technology spectrum that has an impact on the players’ performance. Not just SAP technology, but every other vendor that can help us to realize our ambitious goals to make our players better.

We will become the first mover in virtual reality for soccer, embracing machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT) for more in-depth analysis while enhancing the players’ cognitive capabilities.

This program defines SAP’s approach to modern sponsorships. Even though the next World Cup is not until 2018, it feels as if we are already winners in this competitive sponsorship game — where people not only do business with people, but follow one dream, as one team.

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Nic Jungkind is director of SAP Sponsorships and currently on loan to DFB