A view from Pete Davis

Why relevance should win over revenue in shirt sponsorship

With the new Premier League football season about to explode into action again, Get Me Media's Pete Davis questions whether enough thought is being put...

Most of the major clubs in Europe now have a shirt sponsor. It generates a lot of revenue for the clubs concerned. So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s all down to relevance. In most cases, football clubs simply give the sponsorship of their shirts up to the highest bidder. No problem here, you might think, as surely the point is to make as much money out of it as possible. Well, yes and no.

Should sponsorship be solely about the money? An appropriate partnership cannot only generate revenue for the club concerned, but also deliver further value through association.

And this is just as important for the sponsor. A sponsor aligned with the vision, values and branding of a club will potentially add to the livery of the football shirt and reinforce this image, as well as generate extra funds.

An appropriate, sympathetic and compatible sponsor, meanwhile, will resonate with the fans and the wider football community, generating engagement, building a relationship, and essentially be as much in partnership with this fanbase as the club itself.

This is far more likely to place the sponsor front of mind – where every brand wants to be – driving more bang for their buck than simply throwing money at the deal.

So let’s have a look at some of the Premiership clubs’ shirt sponsors. During the 2015/16 season they were dominated (35%) by sports betting companies, which while some may say are appropriate in a business sense, are surely inappropriate from an ethical perspective, and so hardly reflect glory on the clubs they sponsor.

Some 25% span insurance or finance, for which there is little relevance. Similarly for the two Middle Eastern airline sponsors. Then come a random selection including an Asian tyre company with an unclear strategy.

Out of all 20 Premiership teams, there are hardly any, you could argue, that add real value to the club beyond revenue. One of the best brand fits is British lifestyle consumer electronics brand Veho’s shirt deal with Southampton, associating the club with innovation, plus it’s a UK business.

And at least Everton’s Chang Beer and Leicester’s King Power, a duty free retailer, are consumer brands, albeit from a different continent. In fact, Leicester’s case is quite interesting because the sponsor actually owns the club, making it a completely different relationship.

Most owners prefer to be behind the scenes. By also being the sponsor, the King Power brand is more closely tied to the success of the club and able to leverage more value when things are going well, and so is basking in glory now, but is likely to suffer more when it isn’t.

So what would better alternatives look like? Well Red Bull would seem a great fit for Manchester United or Liverpool in terms of colour and the performance enhancing nature of the product. Local crisp brand Walkers would work well with Leicester – and once were a shirt sponsor at the club.

Strong past examples include Hitachi’s and Samsung’s sponsorship of Liverpool and Chelsea respectively, again imbuing the image of the clubs with innovation and success.

Perhaps another good test would be whether fans are prepared to walk around in a shirt sporting a particular sponsor. Just how happy must Newcastle United fans be about wearing Wonga?

What is clear is that more can be done to leverage the maximum value from shirt sponsorship for both the club and the brand – not to mention the fans – through striking more carefully thought out deals that are not just all about the money.

If a relevant and appropriate sponsor is chosen it can reflect positively on the club, while the sponsoring company can get full value from the money they have invested in terms of actually generating business.

Range of Premier League club sponsors

  1. Insurance 3
  2. Finance 2
  3. Airline 2
  4. Beer 1
  5. Car 1
  6. Tyres 1
  7. Software 1
  8. Sound tech 1
  9. Retail 1

2015/16 Premier League club sponsorship deals

  1. Manchester United, Chevrolet (US), cars, £53m, 2014-21
  2. Chelsea, Yokohama (Japan), tyres, £40m, 2015-20
  3. Arsenal, Fly Emirates (UAE), airline, £30m, 2014-19
  4. Liverpool, Standard Chartered, insurance, £25m, 2013-16
  5. Man City, Etihad Airways (UAE), airline, £20m, 2011-21
  6. Tottenham, AIA (China), insurance, £16m, 2014-19
  7. Newcastle United, Wonga (UK), loans, £6m, 2012-16
  8. West Ham, Betway (Malta), betting, £6m, 2015-16
  9. Everton, Chang (Thailand), beer, £5.3m, 2005-
  10. Aston Villa, Intuit Quickbooks (US), accounts software, £5m, 2013-15
  11. Sunderland (New), Dafabet (Philippines), betting, £5m, 2015-17
  12. Swansea City, GWFX (HK), financial services, £4m
  13. Stoke City, Bet365 (UK), betting, £3m, 2012-15
  14. West Brom, TLCBET (Asia), betting, £2.3m, 2015-17
  15. Southampton, Veho (UK), Sound technology, £1m, 2014-16
  16. Leicester City, King Power (Thailand), duty free shopping, £1m, 2010-
  17. Crystal Palace, Mansion (Gibraltar), betting, £5m, 2015-16
  18. Watford, 138.com (China), betting, £1m, 2015-16
  19. Bournemouth, Mansion (Gibraltar), betting, £1.3m, 2015-16
  20. Norwich City, Aviva (UK), insurance, £1m, 2012-16

Source: Total Sporttek

Pete Davis is the founder and managing director of Get Me Media.