Speedway hero helps build brands
Tony Rickardsson is one of Sweden's most famous and best-liked sportsmen. After six world championship titles in speedway and numerous prizes and awards, he has switched this year to car racing in the Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia. The cooperation with Swedish Match as principal sponsor will continue and as Rickardsson himself phrased it, they are "a perfect match." He is also one of Sweden's most well-known users of snus and his favorite is General Onyx by Swedish Match.
There are hardly any Swedes who do not know Tony Rickardsson. He has won nearly everything that can be won in speedway and has become so popular that both he himself and the Rickardsson Racing team are currently very strong brands. The celebrity status has also resulted in him being impersonated by one of Sweden's best comedians, a gratifying assignment considering Rickardsson's characteristic dialect and the fact that he has always been gifted in terms of relationships with the media.
In addition to being a great sportsman, his strengths appear to lie in his strong personality. Swedish people see him as a secure and thoroughly likable person, who works hard and has both feet firmly on the ground. That picture was confirmed when we met Tony Rickardsson at the Rickardsson Racing workshop, located in a beautiful old mill in his hometown of Avesta.
Official driver for Porsche Sweden
The past year has been something of a new start for Tony Rickardsson. From a life revolving almost entirely around speedway since his early teens, he competed in his final race in October 2006 and moved on to car racing in the Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia and is now the official driver for Porsche Sweden.
"From six-time world champion in speedway to something of a beginner in car racing may sound like a major step, but I like new starts, so the venture into the Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia series suits me perfectly. The route and the struggle to the goal are what I enjoy the most. It took me 15 years to build a perfect speedway team and I am now about to build my car racing team. Teamwork is extremely important; without my team I am nothing. I am also happy that I was able to leave speedway on my own initiative; that I was not forced to quit due to injuries," explains Rickardsson.
Tony Rickardsson was able to take the cooperation with Swedish Match to car racing. The first contact between them was in 2000, when he was active in speedway. That cooperation was successful and Swedish Match is now one of the principal sponsors of Rickardsson Racing in the Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia series. The Swedish Match logo is visible on the metallic blue car and on Tony Rickardsson's racing suit.
"Our cooperation is a perfect match", says Rickardsson. "Car sports are enjoyed by a multitude of spectators and I have also been using Swedish Match's products for a number of years. The cooperation is based on mutual trust aimed at improving the image and strengthening the brands."
Kerstin Brandt, who is responsible for sponsoring and events at Swedish Match, agrees. "Tony is incredibly professional in terms of preserving the Swedish Match brand and his own brand. He is also very committed to customer-related activities. Tony Rickardsson represents a vast amount of added value for Swedish Match," explains Kerstin Brandt.
General Onyx is his favorite
Rickardsson's favorite snus is General Onyx. In the past, he used only Ettan loose snus, but since he discovered General Onyx in its attractive can, the black and beautifully packaged portion snus is all he uses now. "General Onyx is classy. I like order, so I appreciate the fact that the portion packages are laid out in the form of a star," he emphasizes. Since the Rickardsson Racing workshop is a marvel of neatness, order, well-polished cars and tools, there is no doubt as to what Rickardsson means. He shows the snus can holder, which is mounted on the inside of the Porsche's driver's door, designed for a General Onyx can. "There was no room for my snus can in the racing car since all unnecessary equipment is removed to make the car as light as possible. So I came up with the idea to design a snus can holder. We manufactured it using carbon fiber, which is known as `the black gold of racing´, since the material is both light and strong. I am now able to pop in a portion of snus on a straight stretch if I want," says Rickardsson, with a laugh.
Driver talent is crucial
The Porsche Carrera Cup started in Germany and France in 1990. In May 2004, the series had its premiere in Scandinavia and, today, the Carrera Cup is also held in Asia, Japan, Australia and the UK.
All participants compete on equal terms, since engines and transmissions are sealed in the factory and it is the driver's talent and the team's professionalism that determine the winner.
The Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia series received a significant lift when he decided to quit speedway and invest fully in the series for 2007.
"My goal is to build the series as much as possible. It is not only about me but also about generating publicity around the series, increasing its status and ensuring that interest increases in coming years. For example, the fact that my name is well-known has contributed to more people making financial investments in the series. I hope that more and more people will discover the immense entertainment provided by car racing."
Driving is an adrenalin kick
Rickardsson had tried out motor rallies in the past "but there was too little glamour in the sport," he jokes. "But, he adds, there is also very little glamour in racing and it requires a considerable amount of physical training. Nevertheless, it is something of a boyhood dream come true.
"Driving is extremely enjoyable. It is an incredible adrenalin kick pushing the car to its limits and then adjusting its precision to be able to drive even faster. But the race itself is only a small part of the whole and there is a great deal of work between races," Rickardsson explains.
He believes that the team has come a long way in its efforts, although he himself has his sights set several years ahead with numerous plans for Rickardsson Racing.
"I can't do anything half-heartedly. I always invest 100 percent," he says in conclusion.