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It is all about the money – 10 of the richest top 20 football clubs all hail from the English Premier League, this includes West Ham, Everton & Southampton who outrank the likes of Ajax, Lyon, Valencia, Roma & even five time European Champions AC Milan!
$57.5 Billion -with a B- was the estimated spend in 2017 on sponsorship. The role of sponsorship has changed in recent years and needs to keep up with the ‘partnership’ trend so not to fall behind in importance to media rights. The traditional things classed of sponsorship no longer work for the sponsor; these included the basics such as ticketing & hospitality and simple brand exposure which can be done by the local club down the road.
Now the sponsors need to ensure their money has a good return (ROI). How is this done? The modern way, by full integration into their marketing functions.Why the change? Two reasons, with the key being it comes down to technology. Media nowadays is fragmented, who even watches the daily news most evenings anymore? You’re pretty much connected the second you wake up via apps on your phone, the radio in your car, websites at work, the audience is spreading out and sponsors need to do the same by partnering with clubs to ensure their message is reaching the fans. Second reason, how many commercials do you see a day, 50, 100, 1000? Research says the average person is bombarded with 3000 messages a day. How does one standout in a crowd of 3000 a day! Activation through the partnership method, this reaches fans much more directly than simply putting a sign up of brand x.
You are hearing this word partnership a bit, what is it exactly you ask?! Partnerships come in many forms, the most common being in the form of use of the clubs image rights which includes players, as this uses consumer emotion and therefore cuts through the noise and directly reaches the fan. The best examples of this are Nike & Adidas who sign up top players, if they’re not with one guaranteed they’re with the other. How much more likely are you to see a commercial with a top player in it than Joe Average wearing the new boots, significantly more I bet. Another use and perhaps the biggest these days is using the sponsors products in a players social media profile, many players often have more followers than large companies themselves! Even Nike themselves with 44m FB followers are well behind CR7 and his 122m, tripling the reach when they use CR7 on his FB page. (FYI Coca-Cola the worlds best known brand has 108m FB followers, many parts of the world don’t have internet access, therefore Apple, Google & IMB aren’t as well known)
Elite sport has globalized in recent years, this has lead to the wider audiences and increasing brand values including that of clubs and competitions. Many of you would recognize the Champions League song within a few seconds and you know the sponsor whose commercial immediately precedes KO. Top sponsors know the importance of using this IP and use techniques such as story telling, association and high use of activation. There are many examples of sponsor activation in football a few of which are listed below, the aim here to create a link and what better way to do this than use the fans emotion and relate to them directly. Of course this will differ by the sponsor and if they are a developed or developing brand in the marketplace as they have slightly different goals, but the main one being to cut through all the noise in the advertising space.
Definitely watch this space for a few reasons, with the rise of media rights sponsors are aware of this threat and don’t want to be left out in the cold, therefore new trends are always popping up especially in the digital area. A recent example is the popular Arsenal Fan TV on YouTube, have you noticed the sponsor involved. Media rights is the main reason 10 clubs in the top 20 of revenue are from the EPL which has exceptionally high media rights deal compared to other leagues. This will be especially interesting to see when one of the online platforms has the rights (FB, Amazon, Netflix)
I’ve focused on sponsors creating partnerships with clubs to reach fans, there are also many other aspects which also have great impact including shirt deals which bring in significant revenues for clubs and could also focus specifically on stadium activation in detail, but will leave you with some great examples of sponsor activation: