Feature

Brand Health Check: The FA

The Association must find sponsors as it bids for the 2018 World Cup finals.

The FA: looking for commercial partners
The FA: looking for commercial partners

Just weeks after England's ignominious ejection from the World Cup at the hands of old rivals Germany, The FA is already beginning to feel the consequences.

Nationwide has indicated that it is 'unlikely' to renew its partnership with the English national team, which it has sponsored since 1999. Prior to the 4-1 drubbing in Bloemfontein, the building society had tabled an offer of £20m to continue the deal for four years.

Meanwhile, E.ON has decided to extend its title sponsorship of The FA Cup for just one year. This is actually good news of a kind, as last year the company said it planned to withdraw altogether.

These developments came as The FA was still reeling from the Lord Triesman affair - the former chairman was forced to resign following allegations that he had slurred rival country associations bidding for the right to host the World Cup finals in 2018.

Separately, group head of marketing Simon Freedman has just stepped down, dealing a further blow to The FA's commercial strategy.

A stellar, or even solid, performance by the England players in South Africa could have made things easier for The FA, but now it will have to look elsewhere for salvation.

We asked Rupert Pratt, managing director of Generate Sponsorship, and David Atkinson, founding partner of sports marketing agency Space, to assess how the world's oldest national football association can bring home the World Cup competition - if not the silverware - while attracting a raft of commercial sponsors.

THE FA KEY FIGURES

£20m - the value of the four-year sponsorship deal that Nationwide will not renew

£15m - the estimated cost of bidding to host the 2018 World Cup

Source: The FA

 

RUPERT PRATT, MANAGING DIRECTOR, GENERATE SPONSORSHIP

We have all seen the easy headlines about the 2018 bid, but behind these is a very accomplished team, with the likes of Andy Anson and Jonathan Gregory pulling the strings, bringing in numerous strong partners and working tirelessly to bring home a highly politicised property.

The current climate is very tough, but the UK is potentially on the verge of hosting and benefiting from the world's biggest sporting events. I can think of no better way to kick-start our economy.

As for the broader FA commercial programme, it already has its lower-level partners in place - it just needs to get its big-ticket partnerships over the line.

What this highlights is the requirement for rights holders to develop true partnerships with the brands with which they engage. These must work for both parties, operating at the different levels of the game and across a range of consumer touchpoints.

The FA has form in this area with Tesco (skills for kids) and McDonald's (community coaching), but such schemes have not been realised by the highest-profile properties. This has made it harder for The FA to hold onto or extend deals now the economy has turned.

REMEDY

- Develop innovative partnership concepts that reach beyond title/media-buying sponsorships and source brands that embrace these concepts.

- Embrace emerging markets and technologies while developing an international approach. The FA Cup, Wembley Stadium and the England team are international brands, and The FA must take its properties beyond the UK.

- Build a campaign around the 2018 bid to reinvigorate the marketplace. This can lead to new partnership for The FA's other properties.

DAVID ATKINSON, FOUNDING PARTNER, SPACE

The FA is in disarray. A successful World Cup could have united sponsors, officials and supporters. Instead, the England team returned amid stories of schoolboy squabbles and power struggles resulting in diabolical performances.

Inevitably, sponsors will take stock. For some, the moment of glory has become a damage-limitation exercise. Running The FA is consistently a thankless task, and still it provides extraordinary am-munition to those wishing to criticise.

Major reports commissioned on issues within the game are too often ignored or sidelined. Why? Because, although the two ambitions of protecting football at every level across the country and creating investment to generate significant income could be achieved together under one framework, the current arrangements create a power battle between The FA and the Premier League, which remains consistently unresolved.

Nationwide got value for its 11-year investment in The FA, as its skilled marketing has made the most of the rights. New investors will be seeking assurances that better care be taken in delivering value, but also that there is a robust plan and the structure to deliver it.

REMEDY

- Be more discriminatory in deciding what money to accept, and ensure it is invested in the right way.

- Take criticism on board and begin to implement some of the plans that have been created for the good of the game.

- Seek to manage the available assets with a focus on eliminating risk for the sponsors.

- Operate in the interests of the sport and its future rather than serving the ambitions of a small number of egocentric individuals.