Manchester City and SAP win Globe Soccer’s inaugural Best Partnership of the Year by SportBusiness Award

Manchester City and multi-national enterprise software company SAP are the first winners of the Best Partnership of the Year by SportBusiness Award, presented as part of the Globe Soccer Awards in Dubai.

Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano and Steve Tzikakis, president, EMEA South for SAP, received the award from Saeed Hareb, secretary general of Dubai Sports Council, during a star-studded ceremony attended by football luminaries including player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo, female player of the year Lucy Bronze, Didier Deschamps, coach of world champions France and Ajax chief executive Edwin van der Sar.

The award was introduced to the Globe Soccer programme by SportBusiness to recognise excellence in sponsorship and reflect the role of both parties in creating successful sponsorships. It recognises deal-making, innovation, creativity and best practice in partnerships against key criteria including the length of partnership and its enduring appeal, creativity in activation to engage with key audiences and results against stated objectives.

Six partnerships were considered for the award with a panel of SportBusiness Sponsorship specialists and external experts finally selecting Manchester City and SAP from a shortlist which also included Liverpool and Standard Chartered and FC Barcelona and Beko.

SportBusiness is supporting the award as part of its enhanced commitment to supporting football clubs and brands to identify and maximise the value of sponsorship.

Last year saw the launch of SportBusiness Soccer, a revolutionary digital sponsorship tool which uniquely delivers granular information about every one of more than €2bn worth of deals done by clubs in Europe’s biggest leagues; the English Premier League, German Bundesliga, LaLiga in Spain and Italy’s Serie A.

In a highly competitive environment, sponsorship is one of the revenue streams which clubs themselves can control and grow and revenue is a major determinant of success.

Consequently, it is becoming an increasingly important element of the financial make-up of leading clubs with Barcelona earning €304m and Manchester United €288m in the last year from their portfolio of deals.

About the Manchester City/SAP partnership


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


The decision to become technology partner to Manchester City, and the wider City Football 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 Cityzens 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 one 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.”

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