Existing Uefa sponsors are thought to be in favour of the proposed Swiss format of the Champions League, which – if it gets ratified – is slated to start in the 2024-25 season.
Uefa’s Executive Committee was to have voted on the plan on March 31, but this vote has now been postponed until April 19, with the delay caused by a small group of big clubs demanding greater control of the Champions League’s commercial rights.
The leagues were also critical of the increased number of matches in the group phase and the allocation process for the four extra places in the competition.
The sponsors don’t get a say, but here’s why they would be in favour of the idea in the first place.
Firstly, the new format means more matches – the number of group stage games rising from 96 to 180 – and more matches involving the big clubs, which has an obvious appeal to broadcasters, but also to sponsors.
Sponsors may spend a lot of cash and time on activations to engage and align with fans, but the primary value of the Champions League is still located in the media buy, with break bumpers and LED delivering the bulk of the value.
Given the migration of the Champions League to subscription channels – and thus fewer eyeballs – in recent years, the extra media inventory would also provide comfort for the eight Champions League Partners.
The anticipated negative view of the new format from traditional fans might be awkward, but it’s possible to win them over.
Let’s be honest, the new format has invited bad PR, because a) it seems an unnecessarily convoluted way to sort out who should be crowned the best team in Europe, and b) many fans have already bridled at the ‘format doping’ designed to favour the elite clubs.
But the bad PR will pass, and in any case, the new global fans of Europe’s elite clubs are far less concerned by rules that guarantee a level playing field than those in Europe’s football heartlands.
Finally, the format makes the last eight of the competition more predictable and that can be useful to sponsors, not only because the biggest clubs attract the biggest audience.
I’m reminded of this year’s PepsiCo campaign launch in support of its Pepsi Max brand at the last 16 stage of the Champions League.
The campaign featured an endorsement line-up of four players: Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, and VFL Wolfsburg women’s player Shanice van de Sanden.
Unfortunately, at the time of launch, United and Pogba were already out of the competition from the group stage, and Barcelona and Messi were on their way out after a 4-1 home defeat to PSG in the first knock out stage.
These type of upsets to the big clubs – and the sponsors – would be likely to happen less under the new system. The results of the next round of talks will be seen over the coming weeks, but the sponsors, at least, will be hoping for something similar.