Matthew Glendinning, Editor of SportBusiness International sister publication Sports Sponsorship Insider, rounds up they key issues raised at this year’s ESA (European Sponsorship Association) Sponsorship Summit in London.
Patrick Nally, founder of West Nally, the agency responsible for the first fully co-ordinated FIFA World Cup sponsorship programme in the 1970s, warned delegates at the ESA Sponsorship Summit that sport requires a new sponsorship model to replace the one he helped develop more than 40 years ago.
Nally’s model, which was geared towards maximising revenue for rights-holders rather than meeting the objectives of sponsors, cannot continue to flourish in the context of social change, he said. “There is a grave danger that unless we respond to the new social landscape, sponsorship will be questioned, challenged and threatened with radical decline,” he added.
“Brazil, the host of both the next FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games, is facing a social uprising; people are challenging why the government is funding mega events and not social investment, creating a questionable sponsorship environment.
“Every major event, Sochi 2014 being the latest, also sees questions raised about the involvement and influence of sponsors, with certain categories as lightning rods.”
Nally’s analysis was backed by Sally Hancock, a sponsorship consultant and former head of Olympic and Paralympic marketing at Lloyds Banking Group, who said that 2014 could be a pivotal year for sport because of the backlash against major event hosts and the pressure this puts on sport’s commercial partners.
In Hancock’s experience, issues such as those raised above have not been properly addressed by meetings of major international sponsors. She also called for a return to values of “integrity” in a sponsorship industry that has steered clear of dialogue on how sport should be run. Preferring not to lay the blame at the door of governing bodies like FIFA and the International Olympic Committee, Nally has proposed a wide-ranging dialogue amongst stakeholders including governing bodies, governments, businesses and the media to plot a roadmap for the future of sport.
“For sport to be effective, it clearly needs a re-think. It needs a new direction if we are to meet the challenges of the future,” he said.
“We need coherent policies and we need leadership. It is important that these policies are developed by a collective of all the different stakeholders in sport. By coming together, we can create a collective dynamic to encourage positive change.” Sponsors have a crucial role to play in creating a positive view of sport, he added, and called on ESA to support a debate on sporting governance.
Speaking at the close of the event, ESA chairman Karen Earl pledged the organisation’s support for the project, promising to play an active role in discussions aimed to find answers to some of the many questions over the future relationship between sport, business and society.
Barclays Changes Tack
Debate on the meaning and value of sponsorship at the ESA Sponsorship Summit drew insights into the strategic thinking behind one the world’s most valuable title sponsorships – the Barclays Premier League, English football’s top-tier league.
David Wheldon, Barclays head of brand, reputation and citizenship, admitted that only now was the global banking brand properly using the property as a brand engagement platform. Previously the sponsorship’s focus was on using the Premier League’s media reach to raise awareness of the brand internationally, especially in immature markets. The media value of the title sponsorship in the home market is negligible because the bank already has high level of awareness in the UK.
Wheldon said Barclays was using the sponsorship to communicate with the Premier League’s global fanbase through the ‘Thank you #YouAreFootball’ advertising and social media campaign.
“The Barclays Premier League sponsorship is the last remaining [major] title sponsorship opportunity in the world and we’re starting to leverage it properly,” he added. “We have a long-term relationship [with the Premier League] and lots of things were done well in the past, but we now have to do things differently as part of a new phase.”
Barclays is in its 12th year as Premier League title sponsor and is expected to quit the property at the end of the current cycle, from 2013/14 to 2015/16. From the rights-holder perspective, Premier League director of sales and marketing Richard Masters said that the league was supporting Barclays’ strategic move through its latest rights package, but maintained that global media delivery remained the property’s unique selling point.
“The central focus of title sponsorship will always be media delivery, but there has been a shift in the Premier League rights package towards the creation of engagement platforms,” he added.
One project in the new strategy has been the creation of a fan park in Johannesburg, South Africa, called ‘Barclays Premier League Live’. Over one weekend in March, it attracted 30,000 people to watch five games on big screens.
“The objective three to five years ago was to put power behind the idea that Barclays was a universal bank, one of the few global banks, retail or investment,” said Wheldon. “In the last 12 months we have never spoken about media numbers, despite [the title sponsorship] being a media machine in terms of stadium inventory and international audience. It’s all about making the ‘Thank You’ campaign come to life.”
For the last six years, the Premier League has carried out research in 32 markets, surveying 32,000 people to back up its media delivery. The research indicates that one billion people “follow” the Premier League, and that 600 million people “support” Premier League clubs.
Stuck in the 1990s
UEFA’s sponsorship packages for its Champions League competition came in for criticism from sponsorship experts at the ‘Proving the Business Value of Sponsorship’ panel at the ESA Sponsorship Summit.
Paul Meulendijk, who is now a sponsorship consultant having formerly been head of sponsorship at MasterCard Europe, said that UEFA has the opportunity to create deep engagement for Champions League sponsors, but is selling a “1990s version” of the product.
Meulendijk praised the emotional impact of the Champions League Player Mascot programme, but said that, overall, the package was limited: “At an experiential level, you’re going to a UEFA event with just boards
around the ground.”
Barclays’ Wheldon agreed, and said UEFA needs to provide sponsors with more opportunities around digital assets. Wheldon is formerly the global director of brand at Vodafone, and in 2006 switched the telecoms brand from being the main shirt sponsor of Manchester United to an official partner position at the Champions League.
Vodafone tried to promote a mobile picture messaging service around goals scored in the competition, he said, “but UEFA told us to take it down within weeks”.
On the subject of inflated rights values, Meulendijk supported the intervention of a third-party audit organisation to help price deals. However, other panelists said that rights-holders would not support any organisation that diminished the bargaining power of rights-holders.