Best Partnership of the Year by SportBusiness Award – Manchester City and SAP

For the past 11 years the annual Globe Soccer Awards have recognised exceptional talent in world football with many of the game’s biggest stars travelling to Dubai to receive their honours.

Now SportBusiness has joined forces with Globe Soccer to create a business-focused Award for the first time.

The Best Partnership of the Year by SportBusiness Award is designed to reflect the role of both parties in creating successful sponsorships, with the award presented to both the winning clubs and brands. It recognises deal-making, innovation, creativity and best practice in partnerships against key criteria. These are: Length of partnership and its enduring appeal; examples of creativity in activation to engage with key audiences; results against stated objectives.

Here we take a detailed look Manchester City’s partnership with SAP.


In 2015, SAP became the official ‘Cloud Software Provider’ and technology advisor of City Football Group and four of its clubs around the world: Premier League Manchester City (men and women), Major League Soccer club New York City, A-League club Melbourne City and J-league club Yokohama F. Marinos.


The decision to become technology partner to Manchester City, and the wider Football City Group, was one stop towards reaching an audience on a global scale.

In all four partnerships, the clubs use SAP’s cloud-based technology and work with the brand to develop new analytics to improve on- field performances for players and coaches. SAP has also activated local rights, such as the Cityzen Giving charity programme with New York City.

At the core of all SAP’s global sponsorships however is the desire to innovate and humanise the capabilities of its marketing enterprise software to ensure emotional brand recall through experience.

With sports statistics more readily available than ever, SAP’s ‘Who’s the Blue?’ campaign with Manchester City in the 2018-19 season tested the knowledge of City fans through a global social media campaign.

SAP gave the usual star-studded sports campaigns a surprising twist – taking four global football superstars from Manchester City’s squad – Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho, John Stones and Raheem Sterling – and dressing them in a ‘morphsuit’ that hid their entire body and face.

The only clue to their identities were their stats, shown as on-screen graphics. Fans on social media were challenged each day to guess ‘Who’s the Blue?’ and identify each player through a series of videos showing only their stats for the chance to win prizes.

The campaign drove fan interaction and discussion, while increasing their understanding of SAP’s partnership with Manchester City.

The campaign was widely recognised by the sponsorship industry in 2019, picking up the ‘Best Football Sponsorship – Club’ award at the UK Sponsorship Awards, the Bronze medal at the Clio Sports Awards in the social media category, and the ‘Best Use of Social Media in Sponsorship’ at the European Sponsorship Association awards.


The Who’s the Blue?’ campaign drove brand awareness globally for SAP, smashing the objective of reaching 10 million fans by reaching 45.3 million fans.

It also gained 91-per-cent positive sentiment, above the 85-per-cent goal, and resonated well in China resulting in 1 million views alone – double the 0.5 million target.

As a result, SAP became front-of-mind with a previously disengaged audience, and created understanding of the relationship between SAP and Manchester City.

Damian Willoughby, senior vice-president of partnerships at City Football Group, said: “SAP is the perfect kind of partner. As well as being a world-renowned blue-chip brand and leader in its category, SAP helps us to run many areas of our business simply and effectively.

“More than this, SAP recognises the importance of putting our fans at the heart of everything we do together, [including] the recent Who’s the Blue? campaign with clever and engaging player integration which drove some of the highest engagement figures we’ve seen for a partner-led campaign – reaching over 45 million fans globally and driving over 11 million views.”

The full list of nominees is:

Liverpool and Standard Chartered
FC Barcelona and Beko
Juventus and Jeep
• Manchester City and SAP
Real Madrid and Emirates
FC Bayern München and Audi

A panel of specialist SportBusiness writers and analysts as well as independent industry experts drew up the list of nominees using source information, including data drawn from SportBusiness Soccer, the recently-launched sponsorship strategy tool built around the most comprehensive database of soccer-based sponsorship deals, durations and values ever assembled.

The final three contenders to be selected from the shortlist and announced in early December. ahead of the glittering Globe Soccer Awards in Dubai on December 29.

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