CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/FOOTBALL SPONSORSHIP - Are the football sponsors saturating the market? Too many sponsors could have a bad effect on brand recall

The UK's army of armchair football fans is displeased that the

advertising in ITV's FA Premiership coverage nearly outweighed the

football action. However, when you consider the sheer weight of

advertisers commercially tied into the game, it's a wonder viewers got

to see a single kick.

At a rough estimate, there are more than 170 separate brands involved in

the sponsorship of football in the UK, a number that has swelled beyond

all recognition since the first years of the Premiership. With this in

mind, it's worth asking whether the advertisers clogging up the ad

breaks at 7pm on a Saturday come away with any real brand association

from their involvement.

Campaign turned to our own panel of experts to look at the effectiveness

of companies' football sponsorship. We asked football fans from the

worlds of advertising and media to name the sponsors of a few teams,

competitions and players.

And to be honest, we were easy on them. We might have thrown in the

shirt sponsors of a few non-Premier League clubs but we didn't grill

them on Michael Owen's watch brand of choice (Tissot) or the England

team's favourite supermarket (Sainsbury's).

The results give some idea as to the problems with jumping on the

football bandwagon.

Back in the 80s and early 90s, football sponsorship remained largely a

matter of sticking your name on the team shirt and buying up a few

advertising hoardings around the pitch. Now, top Premiership sides can

have up to ten vertically integrated sponsors, and as a result it's

harder to achieve standout even with those supporters who go to most

home games.

However, even if you are the top advertising dog on your home ground,

you still don't get exclusive rights to your star players. Performers

such as Owen and David Beckham can rack up ten category exclusive

sponsors themselves - which may well be in conflict with those of the

club. When Nike launches its massive sponsorship of Manchester United in

a year or so, it may be perturbed that Beckham, their star player, is so

closely associated with Adidas.

Other conflicts can arise with the sponsors of competitions that the

players perform in. The Premier League, for example, has a major sponsor

but also a number of other investors that buy hoardings and indulge in

promotional activity around the grounds. These are, of course, different

to the sponsors of the UEFA Champions League, the FA Cup and the

Football League Cup.

The UEFA Cup is currently sponsor-free, but that is set to change within

the next year or so.

Finally, most of these sponsors can still be effectively gazumped by

advertisers who buy up rights to the TV coverage, by those whose past

sponsorship of the event has created a long-running association in the

minds of fans, and by those whose advertising activity is nicely

designed to look like football sponsorship. Hence several of our

respondents believed Coca-Cola and Snickers must sponsor a


When you consider how little brands such as Axa, Mastercard, Yorkie and

One2One seem to have received from their investments, you'd expect it to

be advertisers complaining of being conned by the beautiful game.


Mike Ironside, managing director, Mail on Sunday. Chelsea fan

Neil Jones, communications director, Carat. Leeds fan

Colin Gottlieb, chief executive, OMD Europe. Tottenham fan

Graham Duff, chief executive, Zenith Media. West Ham fan

Paul Parashar, screen trading director, PHD. Man U fan

Tim Irwin, managing director, BJK&E. Tottenham fan

Garry Lace, chief executive, TBWA/London. Chelsea fan

Paul Silburn, creative director, Leith London. Wimbledon fan



Question: Name the shirt sponsors of Manchester United, Liverpool,

Fulham and Queens Park Rangers

Answer: Vodafone (above), Carlsberg, Pizza Hut and Ericsson

Form: All of our players nailed the Pizza Hut sponsorship, probably

because the company logo made it on to Fulham's shirt. Nostalgic Silburn

named Sharp as Man U's backer, while Jones and Ironside struggled with

the name on Liverpool's shirts, guessing at Carling and Candy. Goal of

the round goes to Gottlieb and Duff, the only two to match up QPR and


Question: Who sponsors the FA Cup?

Answer: Axa

Form: Oh dear! Backing football's longest-running cup competition hasn't

brought wide recognition for the Axa boys. Perhaps it's because we

loyally refuse to associate the cup that cheers with commercial

sponsors, or maybe it's because there's no real ad breaks to leverage on

Match of the Day. Gottlieb, Duff and Parashar scored to make it three

out of seven. Lace is ruled out, since his agency produces the


Question: Which fast food restaurant, chocolate bar and shampoo

sponsored the Premier League last season?

Answer: McDonald's (above), Yorkie and Wash & Go

Form: A convincing victory for the Golden Arches, with all players

naming the fast food chain correctly. Worse news for our other gallant

sponsors. Silburn, Ironside, Lace and Duff named Yorkie, but the rest of

the field were misled by cheeky Snickers advertising. Only Gottlieb and

Jones found the net for Wash & Go.

Question: Who sponsors the Football League's Division Two?

Answer: Nationwide

Form: "What, the second division has a sponsor?" was the common

knee-jerk response, before our panel settled down, thought about it, and

unanimously came up with the correct answer. The scattergun approach of

Nationwide's sponsorships - three leagues and the English national side

- seems to have paid dividends. But the fact that its name so closely

describes what it sponsors could be diluting the brand impact.

Question: Who sponsors the FA Charity Shield?

Answer: One2One

Form: Our fans clearly weren't fully warmed up when Liverpool turned

over Manchester United in this season's curtain raiser. Silburn and

Irwin both went for Coca-Cola, the first of several "if you don't know,

guess Coke" responses. The boy Jones was the only success here - and

Leeds haven't played in the thing for more than a decade.

Question: Who is the major sponsor of the FA Premier League?

Answer: Barclaycard

Form: All the players have clearly been reading Private View recently.

With the help of that David Seaman ad, the Premiership's new sponsor

scored 100 per cent recognition. However, in a worrying sign for

Barclaycard and BJK&E, Irwin tried Carling and Nationwide before getting

this one right.

Question: Who is Michael Owen's personal kit sponsor?

Answer: Umbro

Form: Some of our players thought about this logically and sensibly, and

consequently got it wrong. It's not Reebok, as Duff thought, though it

does make the Liverpool kit. It's not Walkers, as Irwin went for, though

it used to be one of Owen's personal sponsors. Lace, Parashar, Gottlieb

and Silburn scored, while Jones and Ironside never came close.

Question: Whose sunglasses does David Beckham wear?

Answer: Police

Form: Chelsea fan Ironside loyally declared he couldn't care less about

Beckham's eyewear. Man U fan Parashar didn't know either. The rest of

the field, along with almost everyone else Campaign asked, nailed this

one without even pausing.

Question: Name the four official sponsors of the UEFA Champions


Answer: Sony PlayStation (above), Amstel, Ford and Mastercard

Form: The Champions League is a TV event that can carry more than one

advertiser. All of our panel picked out PlayStation while only Ironside

struggled with Amstel. Ford scored healthy recognition, but Mastercard

seems to have thrown the cash away, with only Jones naming it


Question: Who sponsors Sky's football coverage?

Answer: Ford

Form: No real problems with this one. Silburn was the only failure,

blaming bitterness at Wimbledon's exit from the top flight.

Question: Who sponsors ITV's The Premiership?

Answer: Coca-Cola

Form: Panel members incorrectly named Coke as a sponsor of the FA Cup,

Charity Shield and Champions League, proving what name association the

brand received from its "live football, drink Coca Cola" line. Strangely

enough, Lace, Gottlieb and Duff all struggled with the brand's actual

sponsorship of ITV's coverage. Perhaps they missed it in all the other


Question: Name the five past and present sponsors of the Football League


Answer: Milk Marketing Board, Littlewoods, Rumbelows, Coca-Cola and

Worthington (above)

Form: The League Cup is derided as a Mickey Mouse competition, but it's

clearly branding dynamite. The panel all named the current sponsor,

Worthington, as well as the original backer, Milk. Littlewoods and

Rumbelows, though, have faded from mind.