Attracting sponsorship becomes more and more difficult for English Premier League football clubs. At least for the financial value they demand. It’s the broadcast marketing dilemma – in the digital, engagement marketing world, talking about media values and boasting about the amount of TV coverage comes across as outdated. EPL clubs need to talk about the experience and the engagement factor instead of media values. Otherwise, it’ll be just a matter of time before even EPL clubs will need to embrace lead generation deals that are purely based on pay per performance.
Anyway, let’s move away from the usual, traditional sponsorship agreement, whereby the “brand owner” (sponsor) pays the “rights owner” (club) towards a more radical approach with a smaller financial upside in the short term, but a significant positive impact on future commercial opportuntities through improved and attractive positioning for the football clubs itself.
And that’s how we do it: Instead of selling advertising space on the front of the shirt, the club pays a brand to be the partner and as such also on the shirts. Not just any brand, but elite brands such as Apple or Google, or up and coming movers and shakers such as Foursquare. In other words, the club really cares about their choice of partner, not who brings in most cash.
Here are the reasons why the club wants to pay for these relationships:
1 – Halo effect
Any club using this approach would benefit from the transfer of the brand values and brand exposures. Suddenly, instead of being commercially behind the curve, the club creates the perception of being at the forefront of developments.
2 – Consistent brand experience
Obviously perception is not enough and will be discovered soon enough; for it to become reality the club needs to integrate the partner fully and will benefit commercially. For example:
With Foursquare as partner, the club could use it as their dynamics CRM system, simultaneously reducing costs and increasing engagement. Man City and Foursquare have given a first example of other initiatives, but the club could reach out to other Fousquare users and become a hothouse for Foursquare in the UK. For more info on integrating social media, please read “How football clubs can use mobile and social media to their advantage”
3 – Tapping into a world wide audience
There are more staunch Apple supporters in the world than there are Spurs supporters. The club would tap into a massive audience and would come to global prominence even outside of the football family. Engaging with brand supporters and employees will be very rewarding and will create a network of ambassadors for the club around the world.
This is also true with Foursquare – it’s not yet as well known as Apple or Google – but it’s being embraced by the early adopters and will be as powerful as Twitter in the near future. At the same time it’s slightly edgier. I’d have the mayor logo on my shirt.
4 – Commercial benefits
Let’s add it up: bigger international fan base and higher international standing, greater awareness and attractiveness within England, greater reputation for innovation and intelligent marketing, greater engagement levels whilst bringing the infrastructure and cost levels to that of a modern organisation. All in all, I think that sounds pretty good, don’t you?
What brands to choose?
The club obviously needs to choose with consideration against the vision and envisioned future positioning. I’d personally look first at consumer focused tech brands as it’ll create more traction quicker in the external environment and can be integrated easier to a higher impact internally; brands such as Foursquare, Google, Apple or from categories such as social gaming, micro-blogging, IPTV. The edgier the brand and the steeper the ascendency, the greater the possibilties.
This approach requires a longer term commercial vision, a change in culture and most likely a different skill set – but it’s worth a shot, isn’t it? With the current model being unsustainable, EPL clubs would benefit from focusing on the unique experience only they can deliver, combining it with an engagement marketing approach and – as Brett Yormack, CEO of NJ Nets said – experiment more aggressively.