As chairman of the Volvo China Open Board, Sven De Smet has his finger on the pulse when it comes to hosting a world-class golfing occasion.

From branding and hospitality to promotion and local permissions, De Smet - Vice-President of Brand and Marketing, Volvo Car Asia Pacific - is up to speed on every aspect of the tournament and what makes it special… which is why there was one key aspect he was particularly keen to embrace.

“I’m not normally a morning person but every year in the 23-year history of the of the tournament the head of the staging body is on the first tee to personally greet the players,” he says with a smile.

“So I was there to shake their hands, say ‘Hi I’m Sven’ and welcome them to the Volvo China Open. I know they were all in the zone and ready for the start of their round but it’s a tradition and I think they appreciate it – it is also something very typical of Volvo.”

It’s indicative of the attention to detail in the RMB 20 million tournament that the title sponsor’s spokesman for the event should be up at sunrise to welcome players of all levels, whether they be the European Ryder Cup captain, international sporting millionaires or simply budding amateurs who have qualified to play in the biggest event of their lives.

“At Volvo, we want to be open for everyone, we want to be accessible,” adds De Smet. “We are a human brand, we are about people and the players appreciate that. It’s a great game and it’s a great brand.”
Volvo’s commitment to golf is without question. In its 90 years of existence, one third of that time has been spent involved in the sponsorship and promotion of the ancient game.

“Yes, we’ve had 90 years of Volvo and 30 years of Volvo in golf with lots of highlights along the way since our first car rolled off the factory conveyor belt in 1927. Those 90 years have seen plenty of innovation on our part and innovation is a key word with our involvement in golf.

“How can we do that? Of course, the game is the game, the rules are the rules and we can’t change them but what we focus on is how we interact, how we display and how we engage with our customers and partners through golf.”

As the longest running sponsorship partner on The European Tour, Volvo’s name is intrinsic in the development of golf around the world. Today the sport in China is benefitting from that wealth of knowledge and experience that can only be properly harnessed with the support of key partners on the ground.

For De Smet, the focus in all on what he likes to call “the pyramid.”

“To me, the top of the pyramid is the Volvo China Open and it is ‘open’ in every sense of the word, meaning people can qualify because they have a great world ranking or they qualify from our four qualifying tournaments.

“This year we had three in mainland China and one international, which this year we deliberately organised in Hong Kong because we wanted players to have easier access to the fantastic tournament that is the Volvo China Open.
“The base of the pyramid is very much about the juniors and we are currently in discussions with the China Golf Association to further develop that aspect of the game.

“Last year’s Volvo China Open Champion Li Hao-tong was a previous winner of our junior tournament so we can see the talent is there and that talent needs to grow and be able to get into the bigger game.

“Of course, we are also keen to involve and support our customers and amateurs by staging tournaments with our dealers and partners whereby customers who are fanatic golfers can play and win the national final of the Volvo World Golf Challenge and qualify for the Word Final.”

And it’s at the Volvo China Open where the spotlight falls this week where organisers have again put together an event that continues to impress not only players and spectators but also hundreds of millions of global golf fans watching on TV and online.

“This year most of the activities for the spectators are tighter around the club and the 18th hole to create almost an ‘arena-feeling’ between the Volvo Lounge, the grandstand and the public areas,” adds De Smet.

“Huairou has undergone an amazing transformation with lots of great facilities and very accessible roads and I have to say we are very lucky to have a great relationship with the local government which has supported us in order to not only arrange the staging, the permits and compliance with all the obvious rules but also to help in the promotion of the event.

“It’s great to have such a super relationship and I really thank the local government for that. For the second year in a row, we also have a fantastic relationship with Topwin Golf and Country Club. It’s a great venue, the course is in fantastic shape and the greens are superb, which is echoed by the players.

“Of course the sporting part is important but so too is the hospitality. We are inviting many distinguished and honourable guests to the event so and it is good to see that Topwin has the capacity and the presence to appreciate our customers and step up the service to create a great luxury experience for our guests.”

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