The last season of Premier League title sponsorship marks a change in the sports' importance for brands
The last season of Premier League title sponsorship marks a change in the sports' importance for brands
A view from Robin Clarke

It's already back: why this season will change the impact of football on brands forever

Whether it's crept up on you or not, football is on the verge of becoming more than a brilliant brand building platform for brands, writes...

This weekend the greatest league in the world returns, ever stronger, ever richer and followed by more and more people across the globe

Some fans will tell you they’ve missed it every day, others that it’s too early and the Ashes remains centre stage (albeit because England are making a good fist of it).

This weekend the greatest league in the world returns, ever stronger, ever richer and followed by more and more people across the globe.

Throughout the 2014/15 season The Premier League became a truly global phenomenon with season two of NBC’s coverage dialling audiences up by circa 40%. The affluent US youth (amongst others) have taken to our number one league in a big way. It’s their weekend morning sports slot and for two 45 minute periods a day it’s uninterrupted by commercial breaks – the polar opposite of their beloved (and yes mind-blowingly powerful) NFL.

The final season of Premier League title sponsorship

This new season, however, does mark one changing of the guard in the commercial sponsor space: it is the final season in a long run of Barclay’s title sponsorship. Unbeknown to them at the time of last renewal they are to be the last ‘title’ sponsor of The Premier League (PL) - at least for now anyway.

Nothing drives eyeballs better than live sport. Nothing drives engagement more consistently and more deeply than passionate sports fans

Whether market conditions or strategic step changes have decided the move to take The Premier League platform to ‘untitled’ from August 2016 is a good debate, and one only a few know the answer to. Somewhat ironically, it’s a move that takes the PL in to the same commercial routes that most of the big sports leagues operate in already.

This side of the Atlantic the UEFA Champions League is held up as the shining light in creating a multi-brand, premium partner stable that drives category competition and ultimately more €’s per cycle for UEFA. Stateside of course the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and indeed the MLS have always adopted a category partner approach, and never an exclusive title partner.

Brands have never had it so good

Brand sponsors within these categories and platforms have never had it so good, at least as a marketing opportunity anyway. Nothing drives eyeballs better than live sport. Nothing drives engagement more consistently and more deeply than passionate sports fans. Barclays will seek to leverage its last season as sponsor of the PL as it transitions to new territories. Heineken will look to continue its high-class social engagement campaigns into the new UCL season and new brands will enter the fray looking to feed from the ever increasing pool of eyeballs, interest, coverage and general noise that swims alongside the behemoth that is the modern Premier League.

The content that really flies is the stuff that taps into exactly what fans are thinking and feeling at any given moment

Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram and more are all gearing up with new tech to support, capture and share content from teams, players and fans for the new season. The way fans consume evolves season to season, even month to month and these platforms continue to refresh ways to bring fans closer to the action, to see more action, to share more action. The content that really flies is the stuff that taps into exactly what fans are thinking and feeling at any given moment. Truly insightful content puts their thoughts into words, pictures and film… and helps them express themselves better than they could themselves.

It is a football feeding frenzy: for every official social feed there are a 1000 plus unofficial feeds. And, that trend is the watch out to rights holders in the modern commercial sports world. The challenge is to be even more alert to how official status can deliver true stand out for a sponsor versus the competition.

Fans crave a breadth of perspective

Official rights and assets that sat comfortably for so long in the analogue world are now less valuable to a modern marketer unless truly developed for the connected, digital, social savvy brand and its consumers. Rights holders must embrace and learn to work in collaboration with unofficial channels in order to provide a more authentic, real-time and richer fan experience - as content becomes more readily available to the fan, they crave the breadth of perspective.

Addressable, programmatic, API’s are data led, sharpened vehicles for brands to invest their money with more efficiency and ultimately more measureable return. If sports rights and platforms can grasp the opportunity and develop world class offerings that incorporate these lessons from the advertising world then everything that has come and gone before will seem entirely outmoded.

Hero investment

For a long time now sport has been the hero investment and it has been a superb driver for brand awareness. However, until now those brands have only made baby steps as far as the purchase funnel is concerned. But that is about to change. In the very near future sport - and in this instance The Premier League - could offer brands an even more powerful route to market.