Just as fashion brands are signing scores of new sponsorships aimed at normalizing fashion among males, marketers of watches—the only “jewelry” widely embraced by men—are doubling and tripling their sponsorship budgets, hoping to increase acceptance of luxury and fashion watches.

Rolex is the biggest spender on sponsorship among luxury watch makers, but LVMH’s Hublot has my vote as the category’s most innovative sponsor.

With the signing of UEFA’s Euro 2008, Hublot became the first luxury brand to sponsor soccer. But, rather than just riding the coattails of “the beautiful game”, Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of the Geneva-based company, wanted to use the high profile event as a platform to promote the brand’s own values. To that end, Biver donated all of the brand’s stadium signage to Unite Against Racism. The bold gesture was embraced by journalists, social media influencers, Hublot customers and prospects. Within 12 months, football sponsors, teams and federations each launched campaigns of their own to highlight their commitment to social responsibility.

Since then, Biver has gone on to architect more than a dozen new deals for Hublot, growing awareness, affinity and sales of the brand worldwide. For example, as part of Hublot’s recent three-year sponsorship of the NBA Miami Heat, the brand has committed to raising at least $750,000 for the team’s charitable fund.

And, while many luxury watch brands focus on sports like polo and yacht racing, Biver is more interested in reaching the next generation of customers, which he says are watching football and basketball.

Biver’s high profile deals and concomitant record-breaking sales have not gone unnoticed by competitors. In 2011, almost every luxury watch maker has increased sponsorship expenditures and broadened their portfolios.

For example, new deals in 2011 for Audemars Piguet—the brand favored by cognoscenti–include the expected: endurance racing at Belguim’s famed racetrack, Spa, as well as the less traditional, the LeBron James Family Foundation and the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Interestingly, the deal with the Heat’s popular LeBron James coincides with Hublot’s new partnership with the team.

Meanwhile, Swatch-owned Longines more than doubled its portfolio of show jumping, tennis, skiing and gymnastics events in 2011. Activation includes support of youth events and causes.

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Objectives for companies in the luxury watch category typically include the right to produce co-branded watches; access to talent to serve as brand ambassadors; opportunities to involve key retailers; and the opportunity to set up an on-site store. Showcasing precision and heritage also are important to most brands in the category. Key markets include China, Russia, Abu Dhabi, India, Turkey and the U.S.A.

Sponsorships used as much to showcase product attributes—chronographs, navigation, timing, etc.—as image and awareness-building include yacht racing, aviation and motorsports. Sponsorships aimed at the affluent male target include polo, skiing, tennis and golf.

In the last five years, brands in the category have broadened their portfolios to include partnerships with causes, performing and visual arts, film festivals, European football, horse racing, endurance sports and basketball.

The global market for watches is forecast to reach $31.5 billion by the year 2015, according to a report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc.

Below, sponsorship activity on behalf of brands in the luxury watch category.

Audemars Piguet
The brand favored by men who can afford any brand has an eclectic portfolio that includes causes, motorsports, sailing, horse racing and the Tony Awards. Still owned by its founding family, Audemars Piguet creates special-edition products around its sponsorships. For example, the company made a series of limited-edition watches around its sponsorship of Team Alinghi, the winner of the America’s Cup in 2003 and 2007. The company also created the Jules Audemars Clinton Foundation Equation of Time watch around its partnership with the nonprofit.

The company prefers sports that showcase perseverance such as endurance racing and the America’s Cup. It also uses sponsorship to highlight its commitment to the fight against AIDS and sustainability. For example, around its sponsorship of the 2011 Tony Awards, the brand hosted a charity clock auction to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

AP brand ambassadors include Quincy Jones, LeBron James and Lionel Messi; drivers Michael Schumacher, Jarno Trulli and Sébastien Buemi; golfers Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter; and the “God of cricket,” Sachin Tendulkar.

Current Deals: Official Timekeeper: Spa Classic endurance racing, Spa-Francorchamps race track, since 2011; LeBron James Family Foundation, since 2011; Official Timekeeper, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, since 2011; Official Sponsor: FLASH:LIGHT, a site-specific installation in NYC in conjunction with the New Museum’s Festival of Ideas for the New City, 2011; Official Sponsor: Royal Thames Yacht Club, three-year deal signed in 2010; Presenting Sponsor: Red carpet, Tony Awards, since 2009; Official Sponsor: Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, three-year deal signed Sept. 2009; Official Sponsor: Gstaad Classic collector car rally, Switzerland, since 2009; l’Hydroptère, the world’s fastest sail boat; Clinton Foundation, since 2007; Official Timekeeper: Tour Auto endurance racing, since 2006; Audemars Piguet QE II Cup, thoroughbred racing, Hong Kong, since 1999.

Breitling
In 2011, Breitling opened its first store in New York City. Sponsorships play up Breitling SA’s aviation heritage. Breitling executives credit the company’s wingwalking team with delivering more than £5m worth of media coverage. Actor and pilot John Travolta is a Breitling brand ambassador.

Current Deals: Breitling Jet Team, since 2003; Breitling Wingwalkers; Presenting Sponsor: National Championship Air Races, Reno, NV; Sponsor: Cholmondely Pageant of Power, U.K.

Corum
Corum has leveraged its Zenit partnership to produce a line of watches that feature the club’s logo on the dial. Activates Bosphorous Cup with on-site boutique and hospitality for a retailer’s VIP customers. French sailor and Corum sailing team member Loïck Peyron is a brand ambassador.

Current Deals: Official, Zenit St. Petersburg, Russian soccer team, signed March 2011; Official Timekeeper, Bosphorous Cup, yacht race, Turkey, since 2011; Presenting: Bol d’Or Mirabaud regatta, Switzerland, since 2010; Official Sponsor, World Yacht Racing Forum, Estoril, Portugal, since 2010; Grand Prix Corum, final race in September’s Challenge Julius Baer; Co-Title, Okalys-Corum sailing team; Official Timekeeping Supplier, Skandia Cowes Week, since 2008.

Hublot SA (LVMH)
The Swiss company uses soccer and basketball rather than golf and polo because it is interested in reaching the next generation of buyers, according to CEO Jean-Claude Biver.

Brand ambassadors include Dwayne Wade, Jet Li, Diego Maradona, Maria Riesch, Bode Miller, Dario Cologna and Facundo Pieres.

As part of its new sponsorship with the Miami Heat, Hublot committed to raise a minimum of $750,000 for the Miami Heat Charitable Fund over the next three years. Around its new deal with the FIS for the Alpine World Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Hublot will also be the Official Watch of the Swiss-Ski House, the rallying point for champions and supporters of the competition.

An estimated two percent of Hublot turnover is donated to charities and causes. In addition to its own charity, Hand in Hand, which cares for orphans in India, Hublot is a partner of the Ayrton Senna Institute as well as the Smiling Children Foundation. The company has created a limited-edition watch for each organization; around which it donates sales revenue back to the nonprofits.

Current Deals: Official Timer, Bocuse d’or, chef competition, since 2011;  Flamengo FC, Since 2011; Official Timekeeper, FIS Ski World Championships, Nordic and Alpine, since 2011; Official Watch, NBA Miami Heat, since 2011; Official Watchmaker, Formula One, since 2010; Official Timekeeper, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, NYC, since 2010; Official Timekeeper, FIFA World Cups 2010 and 2014, since 2010; Manchester United, since 2008; Partner, Courchevel Ski School, Switzerland; Partner, Ayrton Senna Institute, Brazil.

Jaeger-LeCoultre (Richemont)
At the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, the brand sponsored a gala on behalf of The Art of Elysium, a nonprofit that encourages actors, artists and musicians to dedicate their time and talent to children battling serious medical conditions.

Current Deals: Shanghai International Film Festival, three-year deal signed in 2011; Official Timekeeper, Sentebale Polo Cup, Dubai, since 2011; Venice Int’l Film Festival, Italy, since 2004; Jeu de Paume museum, Paris; Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship.

Longines (Swatch Group)
Sponsorship activation is designed to reinforce the brand’s emphasis on elegance. For example, Longines activates its partnership with the Andre Agassi Foundation with the Longines Elegance Scholarship Fund. And, Bollywood stars and world-class gymnasts, show jumpers, skiers and tennis players--including Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf—are referred to as Longines Ambassadors of Elegance. Similarly, a Longines sponsored exhibition match in 2011 with Agassi, Graf and other former Roland Garros champions featured Agassi’s presentation of the Longines Prize for Elegance to Jim Courier for his work with disadvantaged children through the Courier’s Kids foundation.

Current Deals: Official Sponsor, Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby, since 2011; Title, Grosser Preis von Baden thoroughbred race and Official Timekeeper, Iffezheim/Baden-Baden racecourse, Germany, since 2011; Title, Prix de Diane Longines and Official Timekeeper, Chantilly, Deauville and Longchamp racecourses, France, since 2011; Official Partner, Equestrian Beijing Int’l Grand Prix, since 2011; Official Timekeeper, Dubai Show Jumping Championship, since 2011; Official Watch, Ravensdale Lodge Equestrian Centre and Title, Longines National Grand Prix at Ravensdale, Dublin, Ireland, since 2011; Official Partner, World Gymnaestrada Lausanne 2011; Official Timekeeper, Fed Cup, tennis, since 2011; Official Timekeeper, 2011 Asian Winter Games; Official Timekeeper, FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup, 14 countries, since 2010; Official Partner, Roland-Garros and the French Open; Piazza di Siena, Show jumping, Rome; Longines Rising Tennis Stars; Longines Future Tennis Aces, Paris, since 2009; Official Timekeeper, Royal Ascot, since 2007; Primary Sponsor, show jumping Grand Prix within Sweden’s Falsterbo Horse Show; Official Timekeeper, Jumping Int’l Officiel de France, La Baule, since 2005; Official Watch, Melbourne Cup, since 2005; Official Timekeeper, CSIO Switzerland, show jumping, since 2001.

Omega (Swatch Group)
Omega SA ambassadors include golfers Sergio Garcia, Michelle Wie and  S. Y. Nohl and actors and models such as Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, Abhishek Bachchan, Sonali Bendre Behl and Cindy Crawford.

Around its partnership with ORBIS, which fights preventable blindness, Omega teamed up with Daniel Craig to launch Hour Vision Blue, around which it donated a percent of sales from each watch to the cause.

Long associated with the planet’s oceans, Omega is collaborating with environmentalist/filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand to create a film about the Earth's oceans and to raise awareness of what can be done to protect them.

Omega deals tend to be long-term, e.g., IOC lasts to 2020 as does Omega World Cup of Golf.

Current Deals: Official Timekeeper, golf’s Maybank Malaysian, Kuala Lumpur, since 2011; Official Sponsor, ORBIS Int’l, $1M, since 2011; Official Sponsor, GoodPlanet, since 2011; Official Timekeeper, IAAF’s Diamond League, five-years, $6.5M/year, since 2010; Omega Dubai Desert Classic and Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, five-years, since 2009; Official Timekeeper, Int’l Olympic Committee until 2020; Omega World Cup of Golf, Mission Hills, China, since 2007 until 2020; Omega European Masters (golf), Switzerland, since 2001; Official Timekeeper, UBS Hong Kong Open (golf), since 2001; Omega Mission Hills World Cup (golf), China; Official Sponsor, Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open, stop on the Ladies European Tour.

Piaget
The Piaget Polo wristwatch dates back to 1979. Argentina’s Marcos Heguy, global polo star and captain of the Pilará Piaget polo team, is a Paget brand ambassador.

Current Deals: Official Timekeeper, Beijing Int’l Polo Open Tournament, since 2010;Official Timekeeper, Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic, NYC, since 2009; Pilará-Piaget Polo School, since 2009 (Partnership with Argentina’s Pilará Polo Club);Pilará-Piaget polo team (Partnership with Argentina’s Pilará Polo Club);Piaget Gold Cup (polo event in the U.S.);Presenting, Film Independent Spirit Awards, Los Angeles.

Rolex
Privately-held, Geneva-based Rolex SA is the category’s biggest spender on sponsorship, according to IEG Research.

Rolex brand values include prestige, accuracy and the pursuit of excellence. Brand ambassadors include stars from sports, entertainment and the arts including Roger Federer; Yo-Yo Ma, Renée Fleming, Plácido Domingo and Diana Krall.

Rolex will leverage the PGA Tour’s The Presidents Cup with on-site branded clocks and hospitality for consumers and commercial clients.

Rolex links retailers into its sponsorships and looks to reinforce its brand values of precision and endurance. The brand’s target market has annual HHI of $200,000+.

Current Deals: Arts: London’s Royal Opera House; Teatro Alla Scala. Equestrian: Official Timekeeper, HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships, since 2011; Official, FEI European Jumping Championships, Madrid, since 2011; Official, FEI Nations Cup, Rome; Partner, FEI, includes sponsorship of 30 equestrian events on the international circuit and the Rolex Rankings in Jumping; Rolex FEI World Cup Final, since 2007; Western European League of the FEI World Cup, since 2007; FEI World Equestrian Games, since 2002; Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, since 2000; Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, since 1999; Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Golf: Official Timekeeper, Asian Tour, since 2011; Global Partner, Presidents Cup, since 2011 thru 2015; Official Timekeeper, ISPS Handa Senior World Championship, Shenzhen, China, since 2011; Official Timekeeper, PGA Tour; Official Timekeeper, European Tour; Official Timekeeper, LPGA Tour; Official Timekeeper, China Golf Association; Official Timekeeper, Avantha Masters; Official Timekeeper, Barclays Singapore Open; Official Timekeeper, CIMB Asia Pacific Classic; Official Timekeeper, Evian Masters; Official Timekeeper, Ryder Cup. Motor Sports: Rolex 24 at Daytona, Grand-Am; Goodwood Revival, England. Tennis: Official Timekeeper, TEP BNP Paribas WTA Championships , six-year deal signed in 2011; Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters; Shanghai Rolex Masters; Official Timekeeper, Australian Open; Official Watch, The Wimbledon Championships, since 1978; Official, Davis Cup; Official, Barclays ATP World Tour Finals; Official, Sony Ericsson Open, Miami; Official, Rogers Cup, Canada; Official, Int’l Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport, RI. Yacht Racing: Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta, Porto Cervo, Sardinia; Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and associated regattas, the Rolex Trophy One Design and Rolex Trophy Racing Series, through 2015; St. Thomas Yacht Club’s International Rolex Regatta, US Virgin Islands; Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup; Rolex Farr 40 World Championship.

Seiko
Tokyo-based Seiko Watch Corp. is signing select but significant new deals.

Current Deals: Official Watch Partner, FC Barcelona, since 2011; Official Timekeeper, Beijing Marathon, since 2010; International 49er Association including Seiko 49er Class World Championships, since 2007 (sailing); Official Timer, 2011 and 2013 IAAF World Championships, since 1985.

TAG Heuer (LVMH)
With a slew of new sponsorships in motorsports, sailing, ruby and other sports, the luxury Swiss watch company more than doubled its portfolio in 2011.

Objectives include opening new channels to TAG Heuer’s target audience—affluent males drawn to heritage brands; opportunities to host retailers and business partners; and licensing overlays.

The company also looks to provide timekeeping systems. For example, TAG Heuer is leveraging its new FIM deal by producing timing systems for all national federations and race promoters.

Sponsorships are often incorporated into TAG Heuer retail displays. For example, the company’s new Las Vegas shop includes exhibits that trace the brand's role as official timekeeper of Formula 1 and Indianapolis 500 races and its sponsorship of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team.

TAG Heuer operates more than 100 freestanding boutiques worldwide including stores in Paris, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Sydney.

Current Deals: Golf: Pirin Golf & Country Club, Bulgaria. Motorsports: Official Watch and Chronograph, Eyewear and Timing partner, Automobile Club de Monaco and its full roster of racing events, including the Monaco Grand Prix, since 2011; Official Sponsor, Buddh Int’l Circuit, host track of India’s F1 race, since 2011; Exclusive Timekeeper and Watch, Skip Barber Racing School and race series, since 2011; Official Timekeeper, Indy 500; Official Watch, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 team; Official Timekeeper, Audi Sport in the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race; Official Timing partner and primary sponsor, Goodwood Festival of Speed; Official Chronograph and Timing Partner, Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM). Sailing: Official Timekeeper, 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships, Perth. Other: Halo British Downhill Series, mountain biking; Rugby Football Union.

Tissot (Swatch Group)
Swiss-based Tissot uses a range of brand ambassadors including hockey player Steven Stamkos and MotoGP racer Nicky Hayden. Often creates special timepieces around its sponsorships such as the MotoGP collection.

Current Deals: Official Timekeeper, FIM Superbike World Championship, since 2011; Official Timekeeper, International Basketball Federation (FIBA); Official Partner, Ice Hockey Federation of Russia, since 2009; Official Timekeeper, Chinese Basketball Association; Official Timekeeper, Australian Football League; Official Timekeeper, Asian Games; Official Timekeeper, NASCAR; Official Timekeeper, MotoGP, since 2000; Official Timekeeper, IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships, since 1996; World Championships of Cycling, Fencing.