Okay, now the Chinese are really throwing down the solar gauntlet.
President Obama mentioned China’s rise as a cleantech power in his State of the Union speech Tuesday evening, but he failed to mention this development: Yingli Green Energy, the Chinese photovoltaic module maker that is the No. 1 supplier of solar panels to the California market, has become an “Official Premium Partner” of FC Bayern München, one of Germany’s most famous soccer teams.
Germany, of course, is the world’s biggest solar market — and the irony of one of the German photovoltaic industry’s biggest overseas competitors sponsoring one of the nation’s sporting icons was probably not lost on anyone.
In return for its sponsorship, Yingli said it has been “granted a series of marketing rights, including ticketing and hospitality, advertising and media/public relations as well as the right to market and sell its solar products in the official FCB fan shops.”
That’s right, soccer enthusiasts will be able to pick up a solar panel along with their team jerseys, pennants, and trinkets.
“It truly marks a historical moment in FC Bayern’s history to have a leading renewable energy company to become our Official Premium Partner,” Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of the FC Bayern München’s executive board, said in a statement. “We also look forward to utilizing Yingli Solar’s expertise in the renewable energy area to see how we could make FC Bayern greener.”
It’s another smart move by Yingli, which as a sponsor of last year’s World Cup literally hung its banner on a soccer stadium seen by a worldwide television audience of tens of millions. Closer to home, Yingli struck a deal with the New York Jets to install solar panels on the football team’s headquarters and training center.
And it’s a sign that Chinese rising solar giants are not content to merely be faceless suppliers of products, but want instead to build global brands.
While it’s conventional wisdom that homeowners and business owners pay little attention to the brand name of the solar panels they have installed on their roofs, solar installers who can choose from a plethora of products certainly do.
And if they’re soccer fans, Yingli’s move could be a winner.