2010 Sponsor of the Year, Vodafone


The latest winner of the annual sponsor of the year title is no stranger to supporting Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) in Hungary; long a pioneer in the field, it has even created its own award to acknowledge the work of others. The 2010 Ferenc Puskás – Sir Alex Ferguson Sponsor of the Year Award goes to Vodafone Hungary.

In 2010, Vodafone gave the Marathon Effort for SOTE II appeal a huge donation (though it prefers not to say how much). And so it was that Vodafone received the award in front of a full house of some 75,000 at Old Trafford just ahead of the 3pm start of the Man Utd vs Birmingham City game on Saturday 22 January 2011.

“I am really proud of my company, the people working there and the commitment they show to CSR and sponsorship projects,” says Vodafone Hungary CEO and Chairman Dr György Beck. “In Hungary, Vodafone is heavily involved in several strategic CSR projects. We help people with disabilities, we enable individuals to work for their dream charity while being paid by us, and we encourage our own employees to take part in socially responsible programmes.”

Indeed they do. Since the British-based company entered the Hungarian market 10 years ago, it has given more than HUF 1 billion in charity and sponsorship products, Beck says. It is a main sponsor of the Sziget music festival, and has sponsored the reigning triple Olympic champions of the Hungarian men’s water polo team since 2007, as well as backing the women’s team and the rising generation. In fact, Beck himself is an active water polo player, as well as co-president of the Hungarian Water Polo Association, and President of the Water Polo Association of Cegléd.

That commitment to doing more than just working in the market reached a new height last spring.

“In March 2010, with the co-operation of the British Embassy in Budapest, we decided to recognize the most innovative organisation in the area of corporate social responsibility and our choice was the Robert Burns International Foundation,” explains Beck. And it is a relationship that is likely to continue, he says. “We find this initiative [the foundation] very good and we keep contact continuously to consolidate our common work.”

Explaining the creation of Vodafone’s own CSR award, Beck says his company

“does not consider corporate social responsibility as a mere philanthropic gesture or add-on; it is part of our core business.” He says others should move in to the field, provided they are prepared to do it right. “Corporate social responsibility is based on a complex strategy, companies who are thinking along similar lines should take into consideration that their work should not be a one-off action, it is a long-term and continuous responsibility for others.”

The good news, the CEO believes, is that CSR is getting an ever-higher profile in Hungary, and people are beginning to move away from seeing it as simply another form of PR.

“Yes, it is becoming more widespread in Hungary; it has never just been PR for Vodafone Hungary. Vodafone, as a responsible economic player, puts great emphasis on support of underprivileged people.”

By Robin Marshall