Mercedes-Benz Bank and VfB Stuttgart
Together for inclusion
During the "VfBfairplay" week, Mercedes-Benz Bank as the main sponsor of VfB Stuttgart soccer club waived its right to an advertising presence on the players' shirts for the fifth time, making way for a good cause. During the home game against 1. FC Nürnberg, the shirts bore the slogan "Together for Inclusion!" The match day was preceded by several events dedicated to the subject of inclusion. Lidia Jerke and Jessica Grammer from the Corporate Social Responsibility team at Mercedes-Benz Bank were there.
Suddenly he was in front of us – Benjamin Pavard, the ace defender of VfB Stuttgart. Definitely an occasion for a selfie! Many fans would envy us that photo. Admittedly, on my own I would have had no idea that he is a soccer star, and even a world champion, as I know nothing about soccer and would even have taken the VfB’s team mascot "Fritzle" for a player. Just as well that my colleague Lidia had given me a quick briefing on VfB.
Benjamin Pavard, and also his team colleagues Dennis Aogo, Steven Zuber and Chadrac Akolo, were duly enlisted for a series of selfies. The VfB players were there for a "PFIFF" training match. The abbreviation stands for "Project for Furtherance of Inclusivity in Football". In this program, the VfB in cooperation with Württemberg's soccer association provides structured training for handicapped people. The two of us came to the ground of VfL Stuttgart with eight further colleagues from Mercedes-Benz Bank. The teams consisted of handicapped young people and employees of VfB sponsors.
The training session was a rather sobering experience, as we found that our soccer skills were not quite what we had imagined. But the two hours were a really emotional experience. The children and adolescents beamed with pleasure, and could scarcely believe that they were on the same pitch as their idols. VfB mascot Fritzle was also in attendance, had fun with the kids and gave autographs. And not least, the event enabled us to change our perspective and meet people we would probably never have encountered in daily life.
The soccer training was part of a one-week VfB campaign on the subject of inclusion. Social responsibility is also given high priority at Mercedes-Benz Bank. As a CSR team, we organize many events to continue making social commitment a fixed and tangible part of our corporate culture for our employees. One example is the "Day of Caring" – a volunteers' day on which the Bank's employees roll up their sleeves for social services. In "Give a Smile" we give Christmas gifts to children and adolescents from socially disadvantaged families. And in "Ideas move" we finance projects in kindergartens, clubs or retirement homes. The CSR activities of Mercedes-Benz Bank are very varied.
The campaign week began in the Business Center of the Mercedes-Benz Arena. VfB Stuttgart had invited guests to a "VfBfairplay" network meeting. 120 guests, among them numerous VfB partners and sponsors, looked forward to an interesting evening with various discussion rounds on the theme topic of inclusion. There was also a slight nervousness on our part: Lidia was due to take the stage as the expert on CSR. In addition to presenting our own activities, we learned a great deal about the many social arrangements of the soccer club. The focus was however on the "PFIFF" project already mentioned. Musical entertainment during the breaks was provided by the "Brenz Band", a music group mainly consisting of people with physical and mental disabilities.
Before we trained with the VfB stars in "PFIFF", we attended an afternoon event in Stuttgart's inner city. This is where "PFIFF" presented itself with its "VfBfairplay" court directly on the Schlossplatz. In line with the motto "Together for Inclusion!", passers-by were made aware of the project and had the opportunity to overcome reservations in play, so to speak. Also in attendance were VfB stadium announcer Holger Laser and Fritzle. Our highlight: Minister President Winfried Kretschmann and Wolfgang Dietrich, President of VfB Stuttgart, also insisted on trying their luck in the penalty kicking competition. And who would have thought it: we were able to keep up pretty well!
The campaign week came to an end with a home match between VfB and 1. FC Nuremberg in the sold-out Mercedes-Benz Arena. Both of us were already at fever pitch before the kick-off. We were not only cheering the players, but also the kids accompanying them onto the pitch. This is because on this occasion, the children of our colleagues had the great honor of entering the Arena with the players. Many a child's dream must have come true that day! And once again the "PFIFF" participants had joined us. And even though VfB had to be satisfied with a draw in the end: the week was a complete success for the theme of inclusion!
By Lidia Jerke and Jessica Grammer