Archive for the ‘Barclays Premier League’ category

Why The Premier League Killed Title Sponsorship – And Now Needs A Purpose Beyond Profit


I wasn’t surprised by the Premier League’s decision to discontinue title sponsorship when the current Barclays deal ends next season. The League’s TV riches and the bigger clubs’ sponsorship earning power and ambitions made it a question of when, not if, this would happen.

As I wrote on Twitter back in February when the Premier League’s new £5.1 billion domestic TV deals were announced:

It’s difficult to conclude the new TV deal won’t influence the clubs’ expectations of the percentage increase achievable [from a new title sponsorship] versus the current Barclays sponsorship…given the huge gap between Premier League TV and title sponsor revenue, maybe the PL title sponsorship’s days are numbered.

And so it proved. Here’s why.

The gap between current Premier League TV revenue and title sponsorship revenue is already enormous. Last season, the twenty Premier League clubs shared over £1.6 billion of centrally-generated revenue: 94.6% of this was TV money. Of the other 5.4% (just under £88 million), £40 million was from the Barclays title sponsorship — just 2.5% of total centrally-generated revenue. A pretty low percentage. When the increased domestic TV revenue — 67% up on the current contract — kicks in in 2016–17, along with new and inevitably increased international TV revenue (currently worth £2.2 billion but expected to rise to £2.9 billion), the title sponsorship money will look even more like a drop in the ocean.

And that would still have been the case even if the Premier League had been able to satisfy the clubs’ expectations and find a brand willing to substantially increase the £40 million per year title sponsorship paid by Barclays, which always looked unlikely, and which as we now know didn’t happen.

The other key financial factor in the Premier League’s decision is the bigger clubs’ ever-increasing sponsorship earning power and ambitions.


Led by Manchester United, the bigger Premier League clubs are now routinely generating nine-figure sums from their shirt sponsorships, and achieving double-digit increases when they renew or replace sponsors. They’re also aggressively marketing their secondary sponsorship packages, and looking to diversify and increase their sponsorship from other sources, such as stadium sponsorship and (pioneered by Manchester United with enormous success) training kit sponsorship and regional sponsorships.

This has also impacted on their view of the Premier League title sponsorship’s value.

The clubs keep 100% of the sponsorship income they generate individually, whereas they share equally (i.e. 5% each) the title sponsorship money generated at the centre. As with the TV money, the growth in their individual revenue streams has also outpaced their share of the title sponsorship deal and made it look increasingly minor. £2 million per club from Barclays is a drop in the ocean for the bigger clubs and now looks like small beer even to the others compared to the TV money.

The bigger clubs can also justifiably argue that they can sell the substantial collateral that they have to release to Barclays (perimeter ads, match sponsorships, player appearances, digital and data rights and the like) for much more money than that they receive as their share of the Barclays deal.

And in a related point, the category exclusivity that is part of the Barclays deal and prevents all of the clubs from selling sponsorship to Barclays’ competitors has also become increasingly unattractive.

Bottom line: the Premier League has outgrown title sponsorship — given its finances and earning power, it simply doesn’t need title sponsorship any more.

And moving beyond title sponsorship creates new marketing opportunities for the Premier League.


It opens up the ‘hero brand’ model used so successfully by the likes of the NFL and NBA to market and differentiate their brands without the dilution of a title sponsorship. A Premier League brand free of title sponsorship has the potential to be more flexible and attractive to consumers, more attractive to potential licensing and merchandising partners, and much more attractive to potential sponsorship partners — although whether the clubs are prepared to release enough inventory and categories to allow the League to expand its very limited roster of secondary sponsors remains to be seen.

But for all its riches and all its new post-title sponsorship opportunities, there’s one thing above all that the Premier League must do for itself and its brand: to re-define, and then communicate and live by, what the League’s values are and what it stands for.

Currently it positions itself only as being ‘all about the football’. And when you ask people what the Premier League stands for, great football is absolutely one of the two things they generally say.

But the other is (and not in a good way) money — lots of money.

That’s not a sustainable position.

If the Premier League is to truly become a ‘hero brand’, it needs a purpose and values beyond football and profit.

And if the FIFA scandal teaches us anything, it’s surely that football needs a purpose and values beyond football and profit now more than ever.

By on June 8th, 2015

Tags: Barclays Premier League, Football Sponsorship, NFL, Sponsorship consultants

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Football365: Has football embraced the year-round calendar?

For many football fans, the 2014-15 Premier League season was a fairly unremarkable one, with Chelsea crowned champions with three matches to spare. With the action now over, some players will enjoy a holiday to the classic summer haunts, Las Vegas, Ibiza or Marbella, but an increasing number of them are duty-bound by further football commitments in the off-season. As Premier League pay cheques continue to rise, so too do the demands of fans globally. As sponsors seek to bring international fans closer to Premier League players, could pre-season tours be piling too much pressure on the players and, in so doing, be alienating other fans?

In 2015, players will travel to the Czech Republic, Chile and USA for the European Under-21 Championships, Copa America, and the Gold Cup respectively.  With the 2015-16 season starting a week earlier than usual to accommodate the 2016 European Championships, that does not leave much time for rest. Beyond this, an increasing number of clubs are travelling huge distances across the globe as part of post-season tours, with Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham venturing abroad immediately after the final weekend. Pre-season tours in recent years have often been located in these destinations, however the addition of a window directly after the end of the season is at odds with FIFA’s sporting calendar.


Sceptics will say that these tours take place solely for commercial reasons, and it is certainly difficult to argue with this sentiment. Indeed, even Arsene Wenger commented that “from a football point of view, there is not much meaning – let’s be honest.”  Visiting these regions provides commercial teams the chance to host corporate VIPs, engage with local stakeholders and activate with international consumers. The impetus to visit sponsor territories is not a new phenomenon, with our Synergy Now, New, Next article highlighting the examples of AIG/All Blacks and HSBC/British & Irish Lions. Since the concept and backlash of ‘Game 39’ was first touted, fans have become more accustomed to the globalisation of commercial interests, with the Barclays Cup and other pre-season international tournaments a staple for many Premier League clubs.


But the timing of these tours is proving increasingly contentious, with players’ priorities coming under question, after withdrawals from international squads, and the fear that players are playing too much. Whilst the managers of clubs often question the need to play on these tours, the commercial bonuses are obvious, and these almost always triumph. To the obvious chagrin of messrs Wenger and van Gaal, it is very difficult to lobby the Premier League for a winter break whilst clubs venture to Asia and beyond in the summer, increasing revenue at the expense of player welfare.

Many fans have little sympathy with players complaining of fatigue, and argue that, with the exorbitant salaries offered, they should be working year round. But with their concerns almost entirely focused on the team’s performance on the pitch, it is easy to see how supporters would become irritated by poor displays that may be a direct result of over-work.  Whilst players themselves do acknowledge the requirement to participate in these tours, the increase in off-season commitments creates a viable danger that burnout may become more common, and the clubs and sponsors who are trying to engage fans with players, may at the same time actually be doing the exact opposite.

By on May 27th, 2015

Tags: Barclays Premier League, Default, Football, Football Sponsorship

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Should Sponsors Resist Contractual Activation Guarantees?

In modern sponsorship, success is most frequently characterised as being about win-win partnerships, where both sponsor and rights holder benefit from the shared value created – in other words, the synergies – by activation at scale. When this happens in the UK, it’s usually the result of the sponsor delivering on a generally non-contractual commitment to activate.

However, at Synergy, we work on sponsorship contracts with rights holders around the world, and it’s not uncommon to see contractual activation guarantees, particularly in the US. These can take several forms, including guaranteed activation spends, ‘activation pots’ (where the brand can choose from a menu of items provided by the rights holder) and/or  activation commitments, such as leveraging on-pack to a minimum scale or dictating mandatory markets to activate within.

There is further complexity when rights holders dictate the channels that sponsors must use as part of their media buy. This typically takes the form of minimum media spend with the official broadcast partner, as part of a wider deal between the broadcaster and the rights holder. And in the latest potential evolution, the NBA is exploring mandating jersey sponsors, as part of any deals brokered in the future, to spending guarantees with its broadcast partners Turner and ESPN. Although terms of this are still very much under consideration, it is in response to fears from the broadcasters that brands with jersey sponsorships won’t need to buy as much of their media.  Of course it is not directly comparable, but imagine if Chevrolet, Emirates, Standard Chartered or Samsung were contractually obliged to buy a minimum number of commercial spots on Sky as part of their Premier League shirt sponsorship deals.

We are now beginning to see more and more of these type of clauses creep into contracts in the UK. So, what are the benefits and disadvantages to rights holder and sponsor?

It is easy to see the benefit to rights holders of being contractually guaranteed an active sponsor, who will take on the financial burden of promoting the asset, thereby increasing its visibility and value.

Contractual terms also protect rights holders at the end of longer deals, when it is not unusual for sponsors’ interest in activation to wane.

It is less easy to see the wins from the sponsors’ perspective. By being forced down certain paths, sponsors have less choice and flexibility on how they activate their sponsorship.

A minimum spend in itself could also be construed as counterproductive, as spend levels are not necessarily a proxy for reach or efficiency of messaging. Digital and Social in particular, can be highly targeted, with less wastage than channels such as Out of Home or TV, and are generally considered to be more cost efficient. If activated smartly, sponsorships can be leveraged on a tight budget.

Dictating a minimum spend in broadcast can also limit a brand’s ability to activate creatively across other channels, with budget tied up in costly media buys. It can also be strongly argued that brands know their own audiences and how to interact with them better than anyone, so are best placed to select their media strategy.

As Tim Crow suggested recently in his blog on the IOC’s Agenda 2020, imposing geographical obligations is equally unpalatable for sponsors. The IOC is contemplating this to stimulate local activation by TOPs, and whilst National Organising Committees naturally want to see these global brands activate at scale in their territories, sponsors have their business priorities across the globe, which demand the focus of their marketing budgets.

In truth, it is a very fine line between ensuring that partners are, and remain, active and simply trusting them to activate effectively. Rights holders will argue that they are simply safeguarding themselves against being used as a media buy, with little incremental benefit to themselves. The balance needs to be found where clauses are included with contracts to ensure that this doesn’t unduly restrict sponsors’ freedom of choice.


By on January 15th, 2015

Tags: Advertising, Barclays Premier League, Basketball, Brand marketing, Football Sponsorship, Innovation, IOC, Manchester United, Olympic sponsorship, Olympic sponsorship consultants, Sponsorship, Sponsorship Activation, Sponsorship consultancy, Sponsorship consultants, Synergy

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Liverpool Seeking 50% More From Shirt Sponsors As Gerrard Exits

Tim Crow talks to Bloomberg about Liverpool’s reported price tag of £30m per year for its next shirt sponsorship contract.

To read the article, click here.


By on January 6th, 2015

Tags: Barclays Premier League, Default, Football, Football Sponsorship, Manchester United, Press Clipping, Sponsorship, Sponsorship consultants, Sponsorship measurement, Sponsorship valuation, Synergy

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Whose Name’s on The FA Cup?

Since Budweiser’s decision to withdraw from its £9m per year deal at the end of last season, The FA Cup has been without a main sponsor, with the FA as yet to find a suitable replacement lead partner for the oldest football tournament in the world. So it is fair to say the recent draw for the third round of the FA Cup felt a little odd.

Perhaps the main reason no brand has yet come forward to sponsor the FA Cup is an inability to assess the value of the PR opportunities and overall value the sponsorship offers. This is one of the reasons behind the recent launch of Synergy Decisions, a framework for sponsorship valuation set to help brands think about value in a whole new way.

Nonetheless, this is not the first time the FA Cup has been without a main sponsor. Littlewoods, the retail and consumer merchandise brand, was the first ever headline sponsor back in 1994. AXA took over from 1998 through to 2002, but following that there was a period of four years without a sponsor. E.ON entered the scene and agreed a deal in 2006 before subbing themselves off for Budweiser in 2011.

While some argue that the FA Cup has lost a bit of its magic and romance of old, its footprint remains staggering – 736 teams from across the country start out on the ‘Road to Wembley’ each season. Add in global audience figures for the Final (one of the few sporting events still shown live on terrestrial TV, as well as BT Sport) and it’s strange that there is still no successor to Budweiser.

Could the deeper problem be that the FA Cup is not something a brand can ‘own’ given the lack of a naming rights proposition, unlike the Capital One Cup, Barclays Premier League or Aviva Premiership? Comparing the FA Cup Final against that of the next biggest domestic cup competition in England, The Capital One Cup, delivers some interesting insights. The Capital One Cup Final is totally owned by the sponsor, which appears on all advertising and branding in and around the stadium, and also drives hundreds of mentions of the title sponsor.

In a way, this means the Capital One Cup is a celebration of the brand’s affinity with football. The FA Cup Final, meanwhile, offers the main sponsor fewer rights. You would imagine that the press would take a significant amount of persuading to incorporate ‘the FA Cup with Brand X’ into their copy. Brand X will only be mentioned through proactive activation via PR, social media and advertising.

The PR efforts of main sponsors are very important for rightsholders as it helps to promote the tournament as a whole, not just the sponsor’s brand. Having no one to replace Budweiser, who ran advertising, digital engagement and PR campaigns, means the overall promotion of the competition is likely to drop this season. However, this season the FA has noticeably stepped up its game, launching its own campaign called #FACupAdventure – which saw the FA Cup visit the South Pole for some launch photography. The campaign also includes a call-to-action encouraging fans to tweet images of their own FA Cup adventures this season.




It will be interesting to see how The FA’s efforts impact on their search for a sponsor and whether it will become even more challenging for the rightsholder to find an ideal partner next season, especially given eyes will already be beginning to be diverted to opportunities beyond 2015…

By on December 16th, 2014

Tags: Barclays Premier League, Communications, Default, FA Cup, Football, Football Sponsorship, Naming Rights

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A year like no other: Synergy’s 2014

As another year comes to an end, now seems a suitable time to reflect on a whirlwind 12 months for Synergy.

Here we outline some of our most innovative work in 2014, what the wider implications are for the industry, and what other campaigns have caught our eye and set the benchmark for what will undoubtedly be another busy and exciting year:


What we did:

2014 kicked off slightly early for some of the team at Synergy, who were at Twickenham activating IG’s inaugural sponsorship of The Big Game. Through the ‘Big Game, Bright Lights’ campaign, we looked to capitalise on the down-time that half-time offers and re-invigorate the crowd for the second half. By innovatively using Twickenham’s LED inventory, fans experienced an audio-visual spectacular that connected IG’s brand with Harlequins and gave fans the chance to win some amazing prizes.


Industry insight:

Half-time at sports games have often felt like a necessary evil for sports fans in the UK; a short break to allow the players to recover and fans to visit the facilities. The Pepsi Half-time show at the SuperBowl in February emphasised that US sport is still the benchmark for half-time entertainment, but IG’s work at Twickenham showed that, with a clear insight and innovative use of standard sponsorship inventory, the half-time break may no longer simply be used as an excuse to get the drinks in.


What we did:

The RBS 6 Nations tends to dominate the sporting agenda in February, and is often when Synergy is at its most active. As part of the RBS 6 Nations activation, Synergy helped to produce a series of films based on defining moments from the tournament. These films truly encapsulated the values of sportsmanship, perseverance and teamwork that the brand and the fans love about The Championship.

Industry insight:

Capturing sport’s inherent ‘truths’ like this, and amplifying them to produce content of interest, based on real insight, is a gift that fans want to receive. Guinness also managed this feat, with their films in honour of Jonny Wilkinson, Shane Williams and Bill McLaren, whilst Barclays’s impressively moving Premier League film captured the essence of the match day experience that makes football so special for fans, and so valued by brands.


What we did:

The Capital One Cup Final in March saw the climax of Capital One’s season-long campaign focused on ‘supporting the supporters’. As part of the Final activity, Capital One looked to maximise the audience of the final by offering free Now TV passes to those not lucky enough to have access to Sky Sports. This was a big gesture that delivered true value to football fans, who would otherwise have missed the first final of the 2013/14 season.

now tv

Industry insight:

Extending the true excitement of an event beyond those lucky enough to attend is a challenge facing a number of brands and rightsholders. However, alongside Capital One’s work, there have been a number of other examples in 2014 of brands bringing events closer to non-ticket-holders. Two that we particularly enjoyed were The National Theatre’s continued commitment to its National Theatre Live programme, which involves live screenings of theatre shows at local cinemas, and Manchester United’s partnership with Google+ that allowed fans around the world to ‘be’ at Old Trafford by appearing live on the pitch-side perimeter boards.


What we did:

In order to kick off MasterCard’s partnership with Rugby World Cup 2015, Synergy created a photo moment on the Thames involving All Blacks legend Dan Carter kicking conversions over Tower Bridge. As emphasised on the Synergy blog, a good photo idea has to be reinforced with insight and good management in order to be successful. Both of these boxes were emphatically ticked here, with the resultant images capturing the imagination of the national media and providing one of the most compelling sports PR shots in recent memory.

Industry insight:

Other striking PR shots that grabbed our attention this year included the Yorkshire Building Society dying 150 sheep yellow in honour of the Tour de France and Puma’s water projection on The Thames to launch the new Arsenal kit. Once again, these examples looked fresh and innovative and therefore excited the media and fans alike.


What we did:

BUPA’s ‘My First Step’ campaign looked to get more people running by emphasising the ease with which people could start, or re-start, training. As part of the planning, BUPA and Synergy found that 60% of UK adults believed that their bodies would not be up to running once they reached 60, a myth BUPA looked to dispel as part of the campaign. 63 year-old non-runner Jennie Bond was recruited as an ambassador, as we followed her training journey that culminated in her completing the BUPA London 10,000 event.

Industry insight:

Consumer insight is clearly crucial for a successful sponsorship campaign, with the best examples based on thorough planning. Whilst the success of the ‘My First Step’ campaign was built on a relevant and robust consumer insight, we make no excuses for including another piece of Synergy work from 2014 that emphasised the importance of understanding a target audience. Ahead of Round 4 of the Capital One Cup, Capital One gave Brian Clough-style green jumpers to Nottingham Forest’s away fans at Tottenham as a tribute to their legendary manager. The story and images received widespread acclaim and, whilst the execution was impressive, the success of the story was thanks to the team’s insight around the 10th anniversary of Clough’s death and his unforgettable status within the game.


What we did:

June at Synergy signalled the launch of Coca-Cola’s ParkLives project. Following many months of in-depth planning and research, the aim of getting more people more active more often was brought to life through this bespoke programme in partnership with local councils, which provides free activity classes for local people in local parks in cities across the UK.


Industry insight:

The planning for the ParkLives campaign re-iterated that self-created programmes can often be the best way for brands to achieve their CSR goals, rather than simply buying an off-the-shelf proposition. Another great example of this in 2014 was Western Union’s ‘Pass’ programme around the brand’s UEFA Europa League sponsorship. Each successful pass made during the competition signified a contribution of financial support for quality education of young people around the world.


What we did:

The SSE team at Synergy were up in Glasgow at the 2014 Commonwealth Games for the culmination of the brand’s GoGlasgow campaign. One of our many roles up in Scotland was managing SSE’s experiential activity on Glasgow Green, which allowed fans to capture a unique photo of themselves supporting their nation. Importantly this activity linked seamlessly into SSE’s wider campaign and fed into a digital leaderboard that acted as a real-time tracker on the conversations around the Games.

Industry insight:

Whilst by no means a new trend, by linking the experiential activity to the wider campaign and creating a strong digital output, the reach of SSE’s footprint went far beyond those lucky people at the Glasgow Green live site, and therefore generated significant engagement levels. Another really simple idea that we loved from this year was Nescafé’s activity in Croatia that again blended the online and offline world simply and effectively to create a fun and shareable experience.


What we did:

A couple of crazy days in late August saw Synergy manage the media launches for both the Guinness Pro 12 and Aviva Premiership 2014/15 rugby seasons, and give journalists, staff and fans unique access to two of the biggest club rugby competitions in Europe. The Guinness launch focused on staff engagement at Diageo’s global HQ in London, which gave employees the chance to quiz the Pro 12 captains; whilst Aviva’s event at Twickenham harnessed the Twitter reach of several of the players by creating the first ever ‘Captains selfie’ which provided fans with a fun, new viewpoint of the launch.

Industry insight:

One of the obvious benefits of sponsorship as a marketing tool is the ability for a brand to give their target audience behind-the-scenes access to something about which they care passionately. Whilst not specifically a launch, The FA’s use of the trophy to promote the sense of adventure around the upcoming third round of The FA Cup is a heart-warming example of a rightsholder giving fans unique access to something special (in this case, young fans being able to take the trophy on a series of their own adventures).


 What we did:

2014 has been a massive year for Martini and Synergy, as we have helped take the iconic stripes back to the Formula 1 grid through the title partnership of Williams Martini Racing. In September, at Martini’s home race at Monza, a massive pan-European trade promotion reached its climax, with consumers and trade partners having the chance to experience  an exclusive Italian weekend. This included rooftop parties, power boating on Lake Como and, of course, access to the Italian Grand Prix itself, and Synergy were on-hand to ensure this massive operation ran smoothly.

Industry insight:

Global sponsorships don’t get much bigger that a Formula 1 car deal, and Martini have used their sponsorship effectively to create unique promotions that engage with their target audiences. We also loved Coca-Cola’s huge FIFA World Cup on-pack promotion – offering consumers the chance to win one of a million footballs. For a brand that is committed to helping people get more active, this was a bold statement of intent. The additional element of a 10p donation to StreetGames for every purchase showed a brand that is embracing the Social Era and also reiterated that sponsorship, shopper marketing and CSR can work brilliantly together when applied correctly.


 What we did:

October was all about The 2014 Ryder Cup, and the BMW and SLI teams at Synergy used their sponsorships in very different ways to achieve their objectives. BMW focused on generating sales leads and bringing fans closer to the action, with all activity centring on the #DriveYourTeam hashtag, whilst SLI used the tournament to demonstrate their ‘World Class As Standard ‘proposition. Two unique content strategies helped to achieve these objectives, with BMW focusing on using Twitter to create relevant and reactive golf content for fans and SLI creating long-form video content with ambassadors Sam Torrance and Curtis Strange to connect the World Class attributes of The Ryder Cup with Standard Life Investments.

Industry insight:

As we all know, a single sporting platform can be approached in very different ways, and a third brand (this time a non-sponsor) who once again used The Ryder Cup as a prime PR opportunity was Paddy Power, and we loved their approach, using a tongue-in-cheek appearance from Nigel Farage to extol the virtues of Europe coming together.


What we did:

The QBE Internationals are always a busy time in Synergy’s calendar and this year we were busy creating fantastic social content for our new client, and England kit manufacturer, Canterbury. Using Canterbury’s innovative new shirt fabric as our literal canvas and creating messaging that linked the product with the team, we were able to put an innovative spin on real-time messaging and put the shirt at the heart of Canterbury’s content.

Industry insight:

As the fan appetite for real-time content continues to grow, the evolving challenge for brands is how to get serious cut-through from their communications. We therefore also liked Virgin Media’s real-time newsroom during the Commonwealth Games, which created fun, amusing and – most importantly – differentiated sponsor content throughout the Games.


What we did:

December has seen another milestone reached for Synergy, as the first instalment in a series of Royal Salute videos inspired by the world of horsemanship, reached over a million views on YouTube (across four geo-tagged edits for different markets). This visually stunning video beautifully encapsulates the bond between man and horse, and is perfectly in keeping with a luxury brand with a strong heritage in polo.

Industry insight:

We have thought about some of the other content we have enjoyed in 2014 and in no particular order, three of our favourites include:

Beats By Dre – The Game Before The Game

The ultimate ambusher pulled off a masterstroke – brilliantly framing the key moment before a game (the moment when Beats headphones have an obvious and key role for the players) with a little help from among others – Neymar (and his dad), Fabregas, Van Persie, Lebron, Serena and even the two stars of the World Cup final – Schweinsteiger and Gotze. The presence of the pantomime villain Suarez didn’t even detract from it!

Nike Football – The Last Game

We loved how Nike brought out the personalities of their superstars and used animation in a fresh and interesting way,  helping them to get around the obvious problems of bringing together a wealth of their talent for a shoot. The medium also opened the door brilliantly to the unique #AskZlatan real-time content series.

Always #LikeAGirl

A very different video – and one that doesn’t rely on any talent costs or high production values – but in an incredibly focused, simple and beautiful way reinforces Always’ commitment to empowering girls globally.

What do all of these videos have in common? All four of them are (in very different ways) tapping into something of genuine interest and relevance – whether a moment or a movement – and therefore people in their millions have actively chosen to watch, talk about and share them.

For Synergy, 2014 has unquestionably been a year to savour in sponsorship – here’s to another great year for the industry in 2015.

By on December 16th, 2014

Tags: Advertising, Aviva, Barclays Premier League, Blogging, BMW, Brand marketing, Branded content, Brazil, Brazil 2014, Commonwealth Games, Communications, Content, Creative, Default, Digital marketing, Experiential marketing, Football, Football Sponsorship, Golf, Guinness, Innovation, Kit sponsorship, PR, Public relations, RBS 6 Nations, Real Time Marketing, Rugby, Rugby World Cup, Social Media, Sponsorship, Sponsorship Activation, Sport, Synergy, Synergy Loves, Twitter, Viral Marketing, World Cup, World Cup Sponsorship, World Cup Sponsorship Consultants

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The Portfolio Puzzle

As tennis’ top 8 prepare to close out the year at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in November, Djokovic, Nadal and the like will almost certainly review what went well (and what didn’t) in 2014. Some training sessions will be tweaked, others trashed. Either way, you can guarantee each player understands his portfolio of shots and how he’ll deploy them next year.

Can the same be said for brands and their sponsorship portfolios?

More often than not, no. Sponsorship resource allocation is often an ad-hoc process, and the perfect portfolio remains elusive. This is not surprising. The universe of assets to choose from – puzzle pieces to join together and realize a sponsorship strategy – is overwhelmingly large. Furthermore, different contracts expire at different times – the puzzle pieces are constantly moving. Achieving the perfect portfolio is tough, pinning it down is near impossible.

So what can we do? I’d recommend a portfolio review.

One example of a company who has conducted a sponsorship review is Barclays. In December 2013, the bank assessed whether its asset portfolio – which includes the Barclays Premier League, Barclays ATP World Finals, and the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme in London – was delivering on its sponsorship strategy. And clearly, it’s driving some big decisions.

In May 2014, the BBC reported that Barclays will not renew their £40m-a-year deal with the Premier League in 2016. Furthermore, Barclays has passed up the opportunity to extend its £5.5m-a-year sponsorship of the London Cycle Hire Scheme in 2015.

So, how might Barclays have gone about their strategic review? Well, we’d hope it went something like this:

1. Set objective, value-based criteria

2. Evaluate assets against this criteria

3. Decide which assets to retain vs. replace accordingly

It follows that sound criteria and evaluation are a pre-requisite to sound decisions. But what does this mean in practice, and how is it applied?

First, decision criteria must be set. These should be both qualitative (e.g. fit with brand values) and quantitative (e.g. maximum annual rights and activation cost we are willing to pay, minimum return on investment). Either way, decisions must be grounded in value.

Second, all assets should be evaluated and compared across chosen criteria. The hypothetical example below demonstrates what this might look like:

Figure 1. Example Portfolio Decision Process

Under such hypothetical criteria, Assets 2 and 5 do not make the cut. Deciding to drop them from the portfolio would mean Brand Y management can search out more attractive property across the sponsorship landscape.

Just as tennis’ top 8 review their game and adjust their portfolio of shots year-in year-out, deciding where to allocate sponsorship resources should be an annual process. And just as these players need to work harder to improve, the better they get, brands must put more effort into solving the portfolio puzzle.

The message for brands – put portfolio on the agenda for 2015.

By on October 27th, 2014

Tags: Barclays Premier League, Measurement, Sponsorship, Sponsorship asset valuation, Sponsorship consultancy, Sponsorship measurement, Sponsorship valuation

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Red Bullies? Why Red Bull’s Ownership Model has Caused a Stir in German Football

RasenBallsport Leipzig may translate to ‘lawn ball sport’, but once you factor in their club crest (shown below), stadium (Red Bull Arena), and owners (Red Bull GmbH), it is quickly apparent that they are not your average lower league football team.


The club, owned and run by the Austrian-based energy drink company, is the fifth club to join the Red Bull stable of professional football clubs, and has caused a stir within German football since transforming the fifth division team SSV Markranstadt in 2009. After purchasing the licence and re-naming the club (which is abbreviated to RB Leipzig), the club colours were changed and the team moved to a new purpose-built stadium, with the goal of reaching the Bundesliga by 2016.

Opposition fans and teams have been quick to voice their displeasure, with 15 minutes of silence from 20,000 Union Berlin fans the most recent example. The reason for this is the apparent threat to the current, strict 50+1 structure of club ownership in Germany, whereby clubs are owned by members. At Bayern Munich, for example, adidas (€75m), Allianz (€110m) and Audi (€90m) all have 8.33% stakes, but the 75% majority is controlled by the members. Having progressed through the divisions so quickly, RB Leipzig have been criticised for making club membership expensive and hard to obtain. This is supported by the fact that the club currently only has 300 members, compared to approximately 250,000 members at Bayern Munich.

Nein zu RB

Multinational franchises aren’t the exclusive domain of Red Bull though, with City Football Group taking controlling ownership of New York City FC and Melbourne City – formerly New York Metrostars and Melbourne Heart respectively – and a minority stake in Yokohama F Marinos. Many feel that being able to own more than one club is anti-competitive to other teams with fewer resources, and that it also restricts the opportunities for home-grown players. UEFA legislation stipulates that clubs with the same owner cannot participate in the same competition, a distinct possibility in the near future, were RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg to both qualify for the Europa or Champions League.

Of course, Red Bull is now a familiar name within the world of sport, owning two F1 teams, ice hockey teams, and a wide portfolio of both extreme sports and more mainstream athlete ambassadors. Within the space of 10 years, Red Bull F1 has won the Constructors’ Championship four times, yet there has been comparatively little backlash against the company. Red Bull’s creation of extreme events such as the Air Race, Cliff Diving and Flugtag series has also captured the imagination of many, and has widely been praised, so why the backlash in German football?

Historically, club ownership has been tied to the local area, and it is this nuance that allows a couple of Bundesliga teams to be owned by multinational corporations. VfL Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen are owned by Volkswagen & Bayer AG respectively, but this is permitted by the Bundesliga, as the clubs were formed from company factory staff. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim are the other club that RB Leipzig highlight in defence of their model, pointing out the role that major investment has played, and a growing acceptance of the club in recent years.


Certainly, Red Bull have a way go to quell the backlash from the majority of the football-supporting German public, but advocates would argue that the success of the model makes the league more competitive. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have won 16 of the previous 20 Bundesliga titles, and a new ‘challenger’ within the Bundesliga may actually be a benefit to German football, in the same way many feel – with justification – that Red Bull has enhanced Formula One.

It would be interesting to see how the English public would react should Red Bull turn their attentions to these shores, as rumoured in 2013. A Red Bull-owned Premier League team would undoubtedly bring worldwide recognition, prestige and controversy; something that Red Bull do not tend to shy away from, but I suspect that prohibitive costs and regulation may prevent investment. Given the UEFA legislation and relative cost for English football teams, I would imagine growth markets of Latin America or Australia are more likely sites for a sixth member of the Red Bull football family.

By on September 29th, 2014

Tags: Barclays Premier League, Football Sponsorship, Formula 1, Naming Rights, Red Bull, Sponsorship

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Our Favourite Things Of 2013

The last week before Christmas gives us a great excuse (not that we need one) to remind ourselves of some of the campaigns, films, stunts, tech, social and experiential activity that really caught our eye in 2013. We don’t claim that this is an exhaustive list, and some of the things on it aren’t sponsorship, but they all made us want to share them (the key metric in the social era) because they were clever, creative, funny, and in some cases all three.


“Immortal Fans”

There is little doubt that this is the campaign of the year, and it has the Cannes Golden Lion to prove it.  If you haven’t seen it yet, where have you been? Hurry up and click on the film – your life is about to get better. And if you have seen it already, you’ll need no excuse to watch it again and remind yourself of the emotional power of sports. Nothing comes close to it, and that’s why sponsorship is awesome.


Another brilliantly clever use of sport  to address an important social problem. In Paraguay, 24% of children are not enrolled in civil registration, effectively leaving them with no identity. To raise awareness and spark social discussion on this issue, Paraguay and Uruguay played a football match where both teams wore shirts with no names on their backs, while the opening minutes passed without commentators referring to the players by name. As a result, both major presidential candidates agreed to address the problem if elected to office in the upcoming elections.



Nike Hypervenom House of Deadly

Nike, Neymar and the world’s largest immersive game experience – a combination that’s tough to beat. In addition to the ‘making of’ film below, here’s a blog we wrote about it back in November.

Coke Small World Vending Machines

Who’d have thought that two countries with such a history of mistrust and conflict could be brought closer together by a humble vending machine? But Coca-Cola showed how it could be done, and why they continue to be among the best marketers on the planet.

HTC Snapdragon Photobooth

To demo the power of its Snapdragon processor, Qualcomm mounted 130 HTC Smartphones into a big spiral to create a 540⁰ photobooth. Needless to say, capturing images in this way allows you to create pretty cool films – and almost convinces you to buy a smartphone just because it contains a Snapdragon processor.



It feels so long ago, but it was only this year that Oreo did its thing at the Superbowl. We’re not going to add any more column inches to that particular execution, but it did mark the tipping point when real-time and reactive content became a new, must-have weapon in sports marketing.

Zippo Saves the Sochi Olympics

The Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch has had more than its fair share of mishaps, but when it went out and was re-lit by a bystander with a Zippo, everyone’s favourite lighter company jumped on it brilliantly with executions that quickly went viral and, top of every Olympic ambusher’s wish-list, incurred the displeasure of the IOC.



Nando’s Fergie Time

Nando’s honoured the Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement by copying the stoppage time generosity that Sir Alex all too often received from referees, by keeping all their Manchester restaurants open for an extra 5 minutes of #NandosFergieTime.

Adidas and Andy Murray

Adidas ensured their tribute to Andy Murray went viral as soon as he was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year with instant social media creative and projection mapping outside the SPOTY. It didn’t hurt that Andy Murray also used the exact words in his acceptance speech… All demonstrating that much ‘real-time’ content is actually ‘prepared well in advance’ content.



Yeovil Town and the Safely Delivered Loan Signing

23rd July 2013 was a big day for the country: Yeovil Town was safely delivered of the loan signing of defender Alan Tate. In a move mirroring the announcement of the royal baby, the use of an easel and a framed declaration grabbed the attention of the national media and beautifully hijacked the zeitgeist.



The Oakley Bubba’s Hover

In the week before the US Masters, Oakley produced a fabulous stunt featuring a Bubba Watson hovercraft which re-imagined the golf buggy and perfectly matched Bubba’s ‘go for it’ approach. Here’s our blog on it all from back in April.



An American Coach in London

An amusingly self-deprecating take on (some) Americans’ views on sah-ker, this film, featuring Saturday Night Live’s Jason Sudeikis, helped launch NBC’s Premier League coverage. We expected it to be crap. It wasn’t.

Rory versus the Robot

Another golf stunt, with the European Tour pitting Rory McIlroy against a robot in a series of challenges. Went viral way beyond golf fans, and easily Rory’s best moment of the year on or off the course.

Heineken: The Negotiation

To be honest, Heineken create so much brilliant content, that it is almost impossible to choose just one. But, we’ve gone for The Negotiation, an imaginative take on the often repetitive story of a Football-loving partner and their other half.



US PGA Championship Pick the Pin Challenge

For the first time in history, the US PGA enabled fans to pick the pin location for the 15th hole during the final round of this year’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill. Nearly 100,000 people voted and (surprise surprise) 61% chose the location closest to the water. A brilliantly innovative way to engage fans digitally with the event and the sport. Check it out here.

David Beckham e-Book Signing

In 1998, David Beckham re-invented the sarong. In 2013, he re-invented the traditional book signing, streaming his book launch live on his Facebook page. And if you opted in with your e-mail address, you even got your very own digital Becks autograph. It sure beats the local Waterstone’s. Here is the great man in action.

Adidas Brazuca World Cup Ball Launch

A fan vote to choose the name? Check. A very cool interactive video with hidden content and allows you to see what the Brazuca sees? Check. Its own Twitter feed with 104,000 followers at the time of writing? Check. A total re-invention of a sponsorship asset? Check. Hats off to adidas, and here’s our blog on the Brazuca from a few days ago.



The Surprisingly Good Middle Eastern Airline Ad of The Year: Qatar Airways Barca Island

Book me a ticket on Qatar Airways. Barca Island looks awesome.


What do you do when a legend retires? You set the ball rolling by creating the #ThankYouSachin hashtag and then watch as fans, brands (including Coke and Heineken) and even the founder of Facebook picks it up and runs with it. Here’s our Storify of the key moments:


We hope you liked this review of some of our favourite things from 2013. If we’ve forgotten something that you think should be on the list, then please post a comment – we’d love you to share it.

Congratulations to all the people, brands, agencies and rightsholders who were responsible for this work and let’s hope the list in December 2014 is even better.

By on December 19th, 2013

Tags: Advertising, Ambush campaign, Ambush Marketing, American football, Andy Murray, Barclays Premier League, Basketball, BBC, Blogging, Brand marketing, Branded content, Brazil, Brazil 2014, Charity, Communications, Consultancy, Content, Creative, David Beckham, Default, Engine, Experiential marketing, Facebook, Football, Football Sponsorship, Golf, London 2012, London 2012 sponsorship, Media, Mobile, Naming Rights, NFL, Olympic sponsorship, Olympics, PGA Tour, PR, Public relations, RBS 6 Nations, Rugby, Running, Social Media, Sponsorship, Sponsorship Activation, Sponsorship consultancy, Sponsorship consultants, Sport, Synergy, Synergy Loves

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Major League Success

The global football landscape may just be about to change.

A decade ago, Major League Soccer found itself on the brink of oblivion with dwindling attendances and just 10 teams nationwide. Fast forward to 2013 and it is a very different picture.  A poll by ESPN in 2012 showed that more than a third of Americans described themselves as fans of MLS, an increase of 24% in just five years and a 33% rise since 2002. Attendances also continue to grow at a steady rate, with the Seattle Sounders recently posting record attendance figures of 44,038 per game.

To put that into context, that’s higher than 15 of the 20 Premier League clubs – including Chelsea – and higher than any team in Major League Baseball (save for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who averaged 46,216).

The quality of the league has always been a criticism leveled at MLS – and not without reason. There is no doubt that it has improved dramatically, but two recent announcements may finally establish the league as a global property and see football truly living up to its billing as ‘the global game’. Although none of this will happen overnight, in time it could present sponsors with a platform from which to deliver fully-integrated campaigns across both North America and Europe – not to mention Central and South America.

A clause in David Beckham’s MLS contract gives him the option to pay $25 million to start an expansion franchise upon retirement. Miami has been identified as the likely city and LeBron James – one of the country’s most high profile athletes – is reported to be a major investor. Elsewhere, Manchester City, in partnership with the New York Yankees, have announced the acquisition of the MLS’ 20th franchise - New York City Football Club.

Add to these NBC’s deal to show Premier League games – worth a reported $250m (£157m) over the next three seasons – and the scale of football’s potential in the United States begins to become clear.


There is no doubt that Beckham, LeBron and the owners of both Manchester City and the Yankees have the financial clout to attract high-profile players, but they must be careful not to fall into the trap of the leagues in China and Australia (and to an extent the MLS itself), where ageing superstars of the world game see one last payday.

If the league is to be taken seriously by fans and sponsors alike, there needs to be a change of strategy in the acquisition of players. It is likely that Manchester City will pave the way for their youngest stars to be loaned to New York, and, as the quality of the league improves, others in the Premier League may follow, seeing it as another way into the lucrative US market. But, I believe the biggest opportunity, both from a league quality and commercial perspective lies in Central and South America – particularly Brazil.

At present, many of South America’s brightest stars make their way to super-rich clubs of Russia and Eastern Europe before securing a transfer to one of the major European teams. The MLS must seek to position itself as a viable alternative for the brightest young talents.

A South American star making their name in the US could be a valuable asset for the league. Whilst the FIFA World Cup in 2014 may come too soon, the emerging economy of Brazil, in particular, could unlock big brand investment into the United States – helping to accelerate what is already a meteoric rise is the popularity of ‘soccer’ in the US and launch it as a truly global property.

Maybe only now are the building blocks in place for the US to take its seat at football’s top table – an open goal for sponsors in the United States and beyond.

By on November 21st, 2013

Tags: Barclays Premier League, Brazil, Brazil 2014, Celebrity, David Beckham, Football, Football Sponsorship, Sponsorship, Sponsorship consultancy, Sport, Synergy, World Cup

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