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Why winning the Premier League is more than just priceless to fans

Leicester City are three points from writing their own happy ending to one of the greatest sporting stories of modern times. What’s more, their closest rivals to claiming the coveted silverware are not one of the traditional ‘Big Four’, but Tottenham Hotspur. An unlikely pairing and an unlikely tale for the richest football league in the world.

With a new name set to be engraved on the trophy, an exciting new avenue of commercial opportunities is set to be opened up, but who’s set to benefit from this?

THE CLUBS

Put simply, the club will make more money. Considerable amounts of money.

Let’s start with the basics – the winners of the Premier League will not only take home the trophy, but will also bank a £24.7m cheque for their efforts. Plus, with UEFA Champions League revenues to come for both clubs next season, they can look forward to anything between £10m to £55m of additional income. To put these figures into perspective, Leicester City’s commercial and sponsorship income in 2012 was just £5.2m.

The financial impact goes beyond just prize money – the real commercial win comes through an expanded fan base, both at home, and, more lucratively, abroad. The recent trend has seen Premier League clubs spend their pre-season on money-making tours in the Far East and America – emerging markets where they can capitalise on both fan engagement and brand investment.

Winning the Premier League will undoubtedly gain Leicester an army of new fans across the globe (their story has already won them hearts on home shores). If you don’t believe it, just look at the differences between the Twitter exchanges – both in terms of language and pure numbers – when Leicester announced they were safe from relegation in last season, to when they announced they had made the Champions League this season.
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A global fan base can lend itself to a new approach to sponsorship – dividing up regions and sponsor categories to allow for the monetisation of countless deals. Manchester United claim an ‘Official Casual Footwear Partner for South Korea’, Chelsea boast an ‘Official Whiskey Partner in Myanmar’, while Arsenal have an ‘Official Telecommunications Partner in Indonesia’. Could we soon see these types of deals for Leicester?

In terms of adding fans, there isn’t just a global benefit, but a local one too. Leicester’s average attendance in the League two seasons ago was 24,990, which is close to 10,000 fans below stadium capacity. This season, you can’t get a ticket for love nor money at the King Power Stadium, with reports that touts are selling tickets to Leicester’s final game of the season for £15,000. The demand to watch the Foxes live – and be a part of the fairytale – is greater than ever.

Leicester don’t just become more attractive to potential sponsors because of the additional reach and bigger fan base. The authentic money-can’t-buy narrative will have brands falling over themselves to be part of it. In sport, the greater the odds of success, the greater the story, and the odds have never been greater in the Premier League. A Cinderella rags-to-riches story that provides a welcome relief from past rhetoric of wealth that surrounds the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.

THE PREMIER LEAGUE

The Premier League will be delighted at how the season has played out. Now, they can rightly claim back their title of being the most exciting league in the world. In Spain, just three different teams have won the title over the past decade, with FC Barcelona dominating with six wins in the past 10 seasons. In Italy, again it’s just three teams, with Inter Milan and Juventus splitting the success between them, and AC Milan winning once.

This season, by contrast, the Premier League has been entirely unpredictable. The likelihood of Leicester finishing top of the table was almost impossible in August, and only a fool would have placed any money on their starting odds of 5000/1 to win the league. Don’t we all wish we were fools…?

And that £5bn the Premier League sold the broadcast rights for? It increasingly looks like better value for the broadcasters that shelled out. This exciting season has captured the imagination of fans around the world and will have re-inforced the unique appeal of English football..

As the Premier League seeks global domination in search of more riches, stories like that of Leicester City can only help. Historically viewed as the flashiest, most commercial, most money-obsessed league (both in terms of wages and ticket prices), this season has turned this stereotype on its head. Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy cost the Foxes less than £1.5m combined. In fact, Claudio Ranieri’s entire squad cost a total of £54.4m – one eighth of big spending Man City, and still one third of their nearest title rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

A huge PR win for the Premier league, and let’s face it, you can’t buy coverage like this…

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Yes, that’s Leicester City Football Club, on the front cover of the Wall Street Journal – heady times for the club.

THE PLAYERS

Where once Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba, Sergio Aguero and Luis Suárez were the darlings of sponsors, these household names may soon be replaced by younger, fresher names like Alli, Kane, Kanté, Vardy and Mahrez. Players catapulted from relative obscurity into the limelight, not burdened by huge deals and with the ability to make the most cynical football fan appreciate their talent. It’s reasonable to assume that they will soon be boosting their earning power exponentially through personal sponsorship deals. As an example, Rooney is estimated to be making around £5m a year from private endorsements alone.

And it doesn’t stop there. Vardy’s meteoric rise from Non-League to Premier League has been likened to that of a Hollywood script…and media reports suggest that this could actually happen. When you consider the only other movies in recent times about football careers were about the Class of ’92 – charting the most successful team in English history – and Cristiano Ronaldo, it highlights how enraptured the public are with Vardy’s story.

ENGLAND

Most of the ‘Golden Generation’ have retired, having disappointed fans with their underachievement for over a decade. There has been a noticeable lack of excitement and enthusiasm for the national team…until this season.

Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur  boast English talent like Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Jamie Vardy, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Danny Drinkwater. These new names have revived a nation’s hope and expectation with their young, fresh approach to the game (and beating Germany in their own backyard didn’t hurt).

This fresh crop of England players, not tainted or weighed down with past failures, will shift shirts in huge numbers before EURO 2016, which is great news for Nike. Fans have once again been drawn back towards the national team and it’s these players’ names that will grace the back of England shirts up and down the country – even Rooney’s kids want Vardy on theirs.

Mars, Vauxhall, Lidl and other England sponsors will also benefit – they have seen much of the cynicism around their prize assets disappear this season, transformed into newfound hope and positivity around the team.

QUIDS IN

It’s clear that pound signs will be flashing in the eyes of the winning club, the Premier League, the players, the FA and sponsors. The big question is whether this is a one-season wonder or the start of a new order. Can Leicester build on this and become truly dominant forces on the pitch in England and Europe, and around the world commercially?

Even Spurs, should they finish second, will have stepped out of the shadow of the dominant clubs in the Premier League and stand to gain financially off the pitch. One thing’s for certain: if Leicester and Spurs manage to continue their charge in the UEFA Champions League next season, the Big Four could start to shift uncomfortably in their boardroom chairs.

By on April 27th, 2016

Tags: Barclays Premier League, Brand Engagement, Default, European Championships, Football, Football Sponsorship, Twitter, UEFA, UEFA Champions League

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When will Manchester United join the women’s football party?

Chelsea champions SSE Women's FA Cup

An Official Digital Transformation Partner, an Official Paint Provider, an Official Global Noodle Partner… the list goes on.

Manchester United’s commercial team are experts at monetising the club’s global reach and appeal. It seems that everything and anything that can be sponsored at Old Trafford already is, yet still United continue to unveil new partners on a global and regional level.

Strange then that there is still no Manchester United women’s team. In fact, they are one of only two Premier League clubs not to field a female side, with Southampton the other - although they were affiliated to Southampton Saints Girls & Ladies for several years and are considering re-establishing this partnership.

United did use to run a women’s side, and still do at youth level, but the senior team was disbanded in 2005. Former boss David Moyes once suggested the club may re-establish a women’s team, but executives have so far opted not to do so despite calls from Sports Minister Tracey Crouch to rectify the situation.

With United’s social media fan base topping 100m last year, it becomes clear just how much of an impact a United women’s team could have and how many people the sport could be taken to across the world. And that’s what it is – a sport in its own right, not simply the female version of men’s football.

This huge online following could also grow exponentially with the introduction of a Red Devils women’s side as, whilst a high percentage of women will already make up that 100m, there is a potential to increase the number of females among that audience even further thus giving the club and its sponsors a wider demographic to engage with.

Last year, Synergy helped secure and launch SSE’s ground-breaking deal as the first sponsor of the SSE Women’s FA Cup. Over the past year we have seen just what kind of impact any focus on women’s sport can have, highlighted by more than 30,000 spectators filing into Wembley for the Final. Uncharacteristically, United are definitely missing a trick commercially, if not for the sport and for equality then for the sponsorship potential.

United has a huge global fan base and in recent years the club has put a heavy emphasis on growing that support in Asia and North America with pre-season tours, sponsorship deals and even signing Asian stars Park Ji-Sung (South Korea) and Shinji Kagawa (Japan). Women’s football is growing in Asia and there is now an Asian Football Confederation Women’s Day each year, which coincides with International Women’s Day, to celebrate those who play and support the game across the continent.

MUFC USA tour promo

In the USA, women’s football is huge and the current national team are reigning world champions having won the World Cup last year. Such is the draw of the US women’s team that an average audience of 25.4m watched the final live on TV, the highest viewing figures from any football match, male or female, broadcast on US TV.

So as United strive to grow their fan base across the Atlantic, would it not make sense to launch a women’s team and, as they have done with the current £350m shirt sponsorship with Chevrolet and previous AIG deal before that, possibly seek sponsors from the States?

MUFC pre-season tour to USA

United’s brilliant commercial department has taken the club to the verge of replacing Real Madrid at the top of the Deloitte Football Money League within the next 12 months, largely due to the world record deals with Chevrolet and Adidas, the growing portfolio of sponsors and increased broadcast and match day revenue. Surely a women’s team should be next on the agenda?

United were late to the Twitter party, not launching their official account until July 2013 once all other major clubs worldwide were already well established on the platform. Despite this, it didn’t take them too long to catch up with their rivals. Maybe they are going to be fashionably late to the women’s football party too and, hopefully, catch up in the same way. After all, it’s a bit of a no-brainer given the global commercial potential.

By on March 11th, 2016

Tags: Barclays Premier League, Communications, Default, Digital marketing, Female Sport, Football, Football Sponsorship, Manchester United, PR, Sponsorship, Sport, Women's Football, Women's Sport

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Fit For Kings: Is The UK The Next Big Thing For DraftKings?

 

In case you’ve missed it, Daily Fantasy Sport (DFS) could be one of the next big things on this side of the pond. After explosive and very rapid growth in the US, DFS is now looking to export its success to the UK, with DraftKings recently signing partnership agreements with Arsenal, Liverpool and Watford. DFS involves selecting Fantasy Sports Teams, with an entry fee and prize money that can reach millions of dollars. As I said back in 2014, gamification of sport is a huge industry, and the dramatic growth of DFS is testament to this.

DraftKings and FanDuel are the industry leaders in the USA, following an ad blitz, several high-profile sponsorships, and a number of legal battles. At the heart of these battles is whether Daily Fantasy Sports should be viewed as gambling or not. Joe Asher, William Hill CEO, feels that DFS “is gambling and it should be regulated as such”, although you can understand why an established betting firm would feel that way.

FDK

Both DraftKings and FanDuel have courted controversy in the USA through high profile advertising and sponsorship campaigns, running a TV advert every 90 seconds, spending a combined $150m in Q3 of 2015. The ubiquity of the adverts caused a backlash in November (illustrated below) from viewers and sports fans, but some argue that it has only alienated those who would never use the service, doing little damage to the business itself.

DK Backlash

Beyond the plethora of team and league sponsorships, DFS providers have partnered with major events such as the Belmont Stakes (presented by Draft Kings) and Stadium Lounges like the Draft Ops Ice Club and the Draft Kings Fantasy Lounge, which will “give visitors an interactive place to gather and play DraftKings”. The deliberate move to partner with teams, leagues, events and lounges has caught the eye to the extent that it is hard to avoid the presence of DFS providers in the USA. Primetime sponsored shows such as NFL Insider on ESPN have been compared to “a DraftKings infomercial disguised as a pregame show“. For those in the UK who watch Premier League football, it’s similar to the pervasive presence of betting firms.

DK Media Buy

It might not be a popular, or progressive method of brand-building, but this ubiquitous brand presence across sporting and media platforms has quickly established DraftKings and FanDuel as the dominant players. As is often the case, sponsorship has been used to legitimise their brands, but this may all be in vain if they lose their legal battle in the US - it is perhaps telling that at this stage, the NFL have opted against signing a partnership with either FanDuel or DraftKings.

The expansion of DraftKings into the UK could also inadvertently jeopardise their domestic operations, due to the requirement of a gambling licence through the UK Gaming Commission. Obtaining this could be seen as an admission that DFS is indeed gambling, and that won’t have gone unnoticed by Attorney Generals across America. As payment processors step away from DFS providers, international expansion can be seen as spreading risk, in case of protracted legal battles in the US.

Whilst DraftKings and Fan Duel are available as an alternative to gambling for Americans, it will be tougher for DraftKings to cut through and at the same time differentiate their offer in a mature betting market like the UK. Given how commonplace betting adverts are, achieving both cut-through and differentiation will be difficult, as it is now possible to bet on Fantasy Football, to receive tips on your Fantasy Football team from betting firms or play Fantasy Football for cash prizes.

Having announced Arsenal, Liverpool and Watford partnership deals in February, we are yet to see DraftKings make much of a move on the UK market…and they are not even listed as a partner on the website of the latter two clubs. Given the popularity of Fantasy Football in the UK and an established gambling market, it is surely only a matter of time until we see DraftKings make their mark here. If their approach is anything like their domestic strategy, you’re unlikely to miss it.

By on March 10th, 2016

Tags: Advertising, Barclays Premier League, Default, Gaming, Sponsorship

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

JANUARY

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.

FEBRUARY

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.

MARCH

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.

APRIL

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.

MAY

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.

JUNE

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.

JULY

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.

 AUGUST

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).

SEPTEMBER

 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.

OCTOBER

 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.

 NOVEMBER

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.

DECEMBER

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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