Just days before Real Madrid won their fourth Champions League trophy in five years this past May 2018, there was another victory celebration taking place at the football team's storied Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid, Spain.
This one was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for eight followers of the team, for a special fan event sponsored by Hankook Tire.
"It's a dream come true," exclaimed José Jesús Sánchez Castro, who flew to Spain with his companion from Mexico to attend the three-day, action packed event. "I was about to shout out of joy, because it's a unique experience and I would never have imagined it!"
For these longtime fans, Real Madrid became much more than a team that they watched on television from afar. Instead, after arriving in Madrid and checking into their all-expenses paid hotel in the center of the city, the winners were able to watch a live Real Madrid match in a special VIP room at the stadium… and that was just the first day.
During the following days of their special experience, the group received a personal tour of the Stadium, which over one million people visit each year, and were able to take the team bus to Real Madrid's training center, which was followed by a personalized football clinic on the pitch.
As if that wasn't enough of a sports fantasy for the group, they were also mentored by Real Madrid and Spanish football legend Fernando Morientes.
"It's like seeing a legend right there and being able to talk to him. For him to tell us some anecdotes, his stories and what Real Madrid is all about - we are very lucky and it's truly been a marvelous experience."
Morientes was equally enthusiastic about meeting the fans brought in by Hankook Tire. "It was definitely my true pleasure that first moment when I saw their reaction and reception on the bus," the storied striker said. "Later, we played a little bit of football, got to know the facility and watched where the main squad was. Everything has been fantastic!"
For Hankook Tire, a global brand based in Korea, the partnership with Real Madrid is now in its third successful year, one which has seen the Spanish team win football's storied Champions League trophy in each of them. From its headquarters in Seoul, the company continues to promote forward looking investments, innovative strategies and consistent effort for global customers and fans, while increasing its brand recognition in partnership with Real Madrid.
"This strategic partnership with one of the world's best football clubs is a gift to our customers, and of course, the fans of the Hankook brand around the world. We believe Hankook Tire will provide outstanding driving performance to our customers which is matched with Real Madrid's superb contribution to the sport of football."
Currently, Hankook's partnership with Real Madrid includes its games in the Spanish Primera Division, as well as Spain's national soccer cup (known as Copa del Rey) and both international home and away matches. With an estimated 450 million global Real Madrid fans, Hankook believes that the team shares its passion for innovation and international excellence. As a former player, Morientes agrees with those sentiments.
"Innovation is a must for this club. They need to be aware of the best players in the world, not only for the first squad - like Modric and Marcelo who are the best in their position, but for the youth categories as well, where our group of professionals are always innovating to get the best players to be taken to La Fabrica and try to promote them for the first squad in the future."
In the same way that Ronaldo is relentless in driving a ball towards the back of a net, Hankook constantly strives to "be one with innovation." In doing so, they have found a kindred sporting spirit in Real Madrid, with their mutual partnership having started in 2016. While three more Champions League trophies for Spain's storied football club aren't a certainty, what is assured are more fan friendly events and promotions that highlight how a football club and a tire company can be approachable, forward thinking and innovative together. "We're certainly innovators off the pitch," adds Cho Hyun Bum. "Our continued partnership with Real Madrid will show global supporters that together, we're unbeatable on it as well."
Eight thrilled Real Madrid fans already agree. During the three-day event that saw them experience the chants, the goals, the celebrations and the spirit that makes a game at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium so special and unique, their advice is to keep holding such "incredible" fan events. "What you're sharing is innovation," says Katherine Joana Elias Grande, who is based in Spain. "I'd tell Hankook to keep it going and to keep bringing many cultures together like Spain, Mexico and keep creating these opportunities. It has been excellent from beginning to end."
And while it may be one thing to hear all this from a star-struck football follower, a Real Madrid fan experience sponsored by Hankook Tire takes on new significance when it's all coming from a former football legend himself. "From the first moment I received this proposal it was very exciting," says Morientes. "I have made many similar events since I left football and it's very grateful for us as former players to meet the fans. Why? Being with fans gives you the chance to know their concerns and questions, so it's wonderful for a former football player."