Sports and recreation
In sports sector we are focusing on creating more facilities for enjoying active physical pursuits. We also support professional athletes so that they can inspire more and more people to exercise regularly.
Merko’s biggest sponsorship project is called Eesti Terviserajad (terviserajad.ee), the goal of which is to develop a network of recreational and sport trails to ensure that the Estonian public has year-round, free of charge access to trails and to popularize active lifestyles. Today, 109 recreational trails are open all over the country and SA Eesti Terviserajad has taken on a noteworthy role in shaping people’s exercise habits and popularizing active lifestyles through the network of health trails, various events and active outreach
As a result of the eleven years of work, Estonia now has 109 health trails all over the country and nearly 1,000 km of paths and exercise tracks, of which soft-surfaced tracks make up 800 km, hard-surfaced paths account for around 200 km and illuminated paths or tracks make up around 200 km. Estonia has an average of 59.8 km of maintained tracks and 15.4 km of illuminated tracks per 100,000 people. They are visited approximately four million times per year. Over 75 trail maps have been installed to make navigation easier for users, 34 stretching walls for warmup and cooldown have also been erected, and 58 of the trails have been signposted by the foundation. The foundation has produced a total of 70 Estonian and Russian instructional videos, besides video interviews with celebrities, videos from the trails and events. The videos received a total of 1.7 million views in 2017.
In 2017, two new trails were added to the network. In Viimsi Municipality, the 2.6 km long illuminated Tädu trail was opened, which includes sports equipment for stretching and resistance training. In Narva, the 1.7 km long Joaoru recreational trail was opened; it offers a multifaceted landscape and picturesque views of the River Narva. A stretching wall stands at the trailhead. In 2017, the biggest developments took place on Valgehobusemägi, Narva’s Pähklimägi, Viimsi’s Karulaugu and Rapla trail. Investments into trail grooming and snow making equipment were made at Pähklimägi in Narva, Kuningamägi in Põltsamaa, Lähte, Kuressaare, Tamsalu, Võru, Kõrvemaa, Palivere, Jüri and Värska. In addition, four trails were opened in 2017 in urban environments: the Emajõgi circuit in Tartu and three trails in the Põhja-Tallinn district.
With the objective of emphasizing the importance of regular exercise and to promote such activity indoors as well, the foundation has also developed a concept for indoor tracks. In cooperation with various organizations, companies and schools, suitable facilities have been established inside buildings, making clever use of stairs, corridors and the yard area. As of the end of 2017, SA Eesti Terviserajad had laid out 47 indoor paths that are used by 50,000 people every day. Institutions and companies that use these paths to encourage their staff to be physically active include the Estonia National Opera, the Tartu Vocational Education Centre, Tallinn University, Tallinn University of Technology, four prefectures of the Police and Border Guard Board, Omniva, Antsla Upper Secondary School, Estonian Public Broadcasting, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Tax and Customs Board, Telliskivi Creative City, Swedbank and Eesti Energia. In 2018, the Estonian National Library and the North Estonia Medical Centre will open indoor tracks in their respective buildings.
From 2005 to 2017, SA Eesti Terviserajad invested, with its founders’ support, a total of EUR 4.5 million into developing recreational trails. The investments were made into all Estonian counties, with the largest amounts invested in Harju County, Tartu County and Ida-Viru County. Based on the preferences of the population living near the trails and level of active use, the biggest investments were made into the facilities and tracks at Pirita and Nõmme-Harku in Tallinn, and Kõrvemaa and Jõulumäe.
The total investment made in the 2004-2017 period (includes not only the SA Eesti Terviserajad’s investments but also state and local government investment and assistance from the European Union) into the development of the recreational trails network is around EUR 38 million. The counties where trails have received the most investment are Harju, Ida-Viru, Valga, Järva, Põlva and Viljandi.
For many years, Merko has supported Estonian skiing with the goal of making its contribution to the development of top athletes and to use their role model to encourage more people in Estonia to get active. For many years, Merko was partnered with the Estonian Ski Association. Starting from 2015, Merko supports skiing through sponsoring Team Haanja. The goal of Team Haanja is to take new athletes to the top of the international heap and keep veteran skiers competitive, creating conditions for training fully in line with modern requirements.
Team Haanja is made up of nine athletes: Algo Kärp, Raido Ränkel, Marko Kilp, Alvar Johannes Alev, Karl Erik Rabakukk, Karel Tammjärv, Andreas Veerpalu, Kaarel Kasper Kõrge and Patricija Eiduka.
Estonian tennis is currently in a better place than it has ever been at any time in its previous 100 and more years, at both professional and amateur level. Starting in 2015, Merko is the gold sponsor of the Estonian Tennis Association, providing support for top-level adult tennis and international tournaments. Merko’s contribution to the development of Estonia’s best men’s tennis player Jürgen Zopp and, in summers, the organizing of the Merko Estonian Open in Pärnu, deserve to be highlighted. In 2017, Zopp and Kaia Kanepi won the Estonian Open in front of adoring home crowds.
In 2014 Merko supported Estonian formula driver Martin Rump who is participating in Formula Renault Eurocup motor racing championship. At the “Estonian Autosport Stars 2013” award gala Rump was recognised with three awards: Best Racing Driver, Ants Seiler´s award “Best formula driver in international arena” and Toivo Asmer´s award “Best newcomer in the formula series”.
In 2013 Merko supported Estonian racing driver Kevin Korjus who is participating in the GP3 Series, meant for young drivers and working as a feeder for the GP2 and to the Formula1 series.
Merko has supported also international ITF-series tennis tournament Merko Open 2011 which took place in Tere tennis centre in Tondi on 18-23 July 2011. Jürgen Zopp, Estonian number one male tennis player, played his only single tournament at home this summer at the 15,000-dollar tournament.