Chris Reed
Aug 13, 2012

Why do the world’s top brands shy away from sponsoring EPL teams?

Football is back! The new English Premier League (EPL) season begins in earnest on Saturday and with it a greater emphasis on financial fair play where sponsorship deals are taking centre ...

Why do the world’s top brands shy away from sponsoring EPL teams?

Football is back! The new English Premier League (EPL) season begins in earnest on Saturday and with it a greater emphasis on financial fair play where sponsorship deals are taking centre stage.

It’s interesting to note that for all the power, the glory and the worldwide appeal only one English Premiership League (EPL) club is sponsored by a Global Top 100 brand according to Interbrand, Chelsea and Samsung (although the EPL itself is sponsored by no.79).

Samsung’s 2011 brand value climbed 188 percent to $23 billion since 2002, while Sony’s declined 31 percent to $9 billion, according to Interbrand. “Sony has been going backwards,” Hales said. “Samsung took themselves into a market where brand wasimportant.”

What part Chelsea have played in this is debatable given their relatively limited global popularity (compared with Manchester United and Liverpool for example). If Asia is any indicator (and bearing in Samsung is Korean) you would expect Chelsea to be more popular than they are over here (the John Terry association not withstanding....). Liverpool, Manchester United and coming up fast Manchester City as well as established brand Arsenal dominate (maybe it’s the lucky colour red….).

But could Samsung be doing more for Chelsea than merely giving them money? I have seen moderate Asian trophy tours brought to the region by Samsung but they could all be doing more in my view. Manchester United, Liverpool,  Arsenal, Manchester City, Everton and more were all brought out to Asia by various regional or sub-sponsors this year and last. These teams desire to tap into the enormous power of two thirds of the world’s population who live in Asia Pacific and who’s favourite sport is watching the English Premier League and favourite past time is betting on it is the main motivator for such tours.

Samsung retail on and off line hardly promote Chelsea at all which is the same as brands like Aon, Emirates or Etihad. When was the last time that you got on an Emirates plane and were offered something to do with Arsenal for example? Standard Chartered here in Asia at least do promote the connection with Liverpool BTL and ATL who as a brand still mean a great deal over here. Chang beer, Thailand’s leading beer sponsor Everton but aside from the odd on pack promotion do very little to promote Everton in Asia or in fact anywhere. Everton have just completed a ground breaking China tour as they see the future clearly as being in Asia.

The Champions League win by Chelsea should have attracted more fans in Asia  to them and Samsung should have been marketingthe association for all it’s worth in stores and in their marketing but I haven’t seen much evidence of that in many countries in Asia. For example where was the Chelsea app or even mention in the new GalaxyIII packaging or product?  The power of any sponsorship should be an emotive link that allows both sponsor and sponsored property to benefit from mutual marketing.

Could it be that brands who are powerhouse brands won’t pay the kind of money upstart betting brands and more lowly thought of brands are willing to pay for what is essentially purely a media buy for many? Is sponsoring any of the football clubs in the EPL really going to raise brand awareness or add brand endorsement to betting brands like 32Red, 12Bet and Bet365, (all EPL team sponsors) or do they become betting wallpaper? It could be argued there market is more Asian than UK given the restrictions over here in many countries on gambling.

Brands like Virgin Money, Waitrose and even FXPro to a degree are very British in their focus rather than looking holistically at the world, especially Asia. Is that because Newcastle, Reading and Fulham really haven’t got their act together in terms of marketing the brand outside of the UK? Or are their support bases so local that there is no point in even trying and they therefore find sponsors to match?

Whereas brands like SBOBET and Zoopla are happy to pay for the association with the sport there is after all a direct link between many sponsors and their business plans both in the UK and in Asia. All the gambling brands such as Aston Villa’s sponsor Genting for example who have casino’s in Birmingham, Malaysia and Singapore to name but three countries. QPR’s sponsor Air Asia is entirely focused on the Asian market.

They should think that it’s not all about the money though. The prize in Asia is greater than just US$20m a year. Fans created now will last a lifetime and spread positive word of mouth and be passed down the generations. It’s a massive open playfield at present and the wise commercial brands like Manchester United realized this in the 70’s with their first Asian tour. Liverpool were not far behind – the rest are all playing catch up but there are billions of potential fans over here all mad about the EPL.

I believe that’s why GM have paid so much money for the forthcoming Chevrolet Manchester United sponsorship, primarily toaccess the growing affluence in Asia not for anything in the US or Europe where their sales are decreasing. The population numbers support this and Manchester United have always been ahead of the game when it comes to this. My club Newcastle United on the other hand are not even looking outside Northumberland and the city of Newcastle for potential fans! Even Sunderland have an International Marketing Director! The game’s changed and those that embrace it will reap the rewards, now and in 20 years time.


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