The Washington Times - October 1, 2009, 02:11PM

Anyone who has club seats at FedEx Field may have noticed something new during the team’s home opener a couple weeks ago. The ESPN Zone has been replaced by a new club sponsored by luxury carmaker Audi.
The new Audi Club is about the size of an end zone, and features a large window wall with two Audi cars on display and 16 flat screen televisions.

“It is a 13,000 square foot club designed to Audi’s standards,” said Mark Dahncke, Audi’s retail marketing manager, who said the club took five weeks to build out.

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As part of the five-year sponsorship arrangement, Audi has a new 50-foot x 50-foot sign at the entrance to FedEx Field, as well as 61 parking spots set aside for drivers of Audi vehicles. (To park for free, fans need to get a special platinum parking pass from their Audi dealer.)

The deal also includes signage throughout the stadium, a suite for use by Audi dealrs and executives and chances for Audi owners to get exclusive acccess to Redskins events.

Dahncke said that in a perfect world, fans would arrive in their Audis, park for free, walk past the big sign and enter the club.

“I don’t know any other auto brand that has the level of penetration we have in the Audi club,” he said.

Also as part of the deal, Audi will sponsor the Redskins use of Twackle, an application that allows for the combining of team-related Twitter messages into a single feed.

Audi is the luxury brand of Volkswagen, the German carmaker that last year relocated its U.S. headquarters to Herndon. Volkswagen itself has also been very active with local sports teams, securing a jersey sponsorship with D.C. United and a major sponsorship deal with Verizon Center that includes a big presence at Capitals and Wizards games.

Audi has also boosted it sports sponsorship elsewhere, shelling out big bucks for commercials during the Super Bowl each of the last two years and becoming a sponsor of the New York Yankees. The carmaker has a major sports presence in Europe, where it has partnerships with several major soccer teams and the naming rights to skiing’s World Cup competition.

Despite the Redskins recent woes, Dahncke said it was important to partner with the team because it remains the most popular franchise in town.

“We definitely want to have a major presence in the Washington area,” Dahncke said. “This is our hometown now. We live here and work here, too. We clearly see the Redskins as one of the premiere sports franchises. All of the other teams in D.C. put together do not add up to the Redskins following.”