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AC Milan’s Oettle: New EA Sports deal can help drive into entertainment sector

Image credit: EA Sports

AC Milan’s exclusive licensing agreement with video game developer Electronic Arts will help the Serie A side in its drive to move deeper into the entertainment and music sectors following on from its recent tie-up with the Roc Nation agency, according to Maikel Oettle, AC Milan’s head of sponsorship sales.

EA also became the ‘exclusive Official Video Games Partner’ of both AC Milan and their city rivals Inter Milan in deals announced yesterday (Monday).

As part of the multi-year deals, the clubs’ shared San Siro stadium will feature in the game for the first time and players will be able to use the club’s players, kits and training grounds across all game modes.

Speaking to SportBusiness in the wake of the agreement, Oettle indicated that the deal fitted in to the club’s wider commercial strategy.

He said: “Working with Roc Nation, we want to transcend the classical market of sport of football and move into the wider lifestyle aspects such as entertainment and music and working with brands like EA can help us achieve this.”

AC Milan signed an agreement with Roc Nation in June 2020. The deal with the entertainment agency was signed with a view to working together on philanthropy, music programming, merchandise collaboration, brand amplification and creative activation, digital strategy and execution, commercial sales and cultural events and experiences.

AC Milan’s new agreement with EA extends a previous licensing agreement and negotiations on the renewal were conducted directly without any agency involvement.

Oettle, who left his role as vice-president of strategic partnerships at the IMG agency to join the Serie A side toward the end of last year, added: “EA is the blue chip company in interactive gaming. We want to align with the best in the business. They have shown this by blowing us away with a strong marketing strategy of how they want to grow AC Milan brand within their game.”

In-game activation, new sponsorship tiers

Alongside the stadium and other official licences available within the game, other in-game activations will be used to promote the club, including the use of the FIFA series’ street football game mode, Volta.

The urban culture associated with the mode is seen as a positive way for the club to connect with younger fans and bring other sponsors such as kit supplier Puma into the EA association, with the potential for custom capsule collections to be launched with the global sportswear brand that centre on the game mode.

The club has recently launched a new sponsorship strategy based around broadening the amount of inventory available to brands within its portfolio.

A restructure of its agreement with main sponsor, global airline Emirates, in its latest renewal will allow the club to sell sleeve, training kit, and women’s team sponsorship rights independently for the first time.

As part of the newly-developed commercial growth strategy, AC Milan has also restructured its sponsorship tiering system.

The top tier, which previously housed the Main Sponsors, will become the Principal Partner tier.

This currently includes Emirates and Puma, though is likely to be added to soon through the selling of newly-available sponsorship inventory by the club.

Speaking to SportBusiness last month, the club’s chief revenue officer Casper Stylsvig, said: “We identified the need to add to our sponsorship revenue and sponsorship inventory, by having more assets to sell, it is natural that overall commercial revenues can increase.

“Adding more principal partners is in line with the direction the industry is heading.”

EA will join the band of sponsors below the Principal Partners, in what will now be known as the Premium Partner tier.

Oettle, said: “The premium tier will allow partners to integrate themselves with the club a lot deeper than other partners in lower tiers.”

Whilst the exact length of the contract with EA has not been disclosed, Oettle indicated that deals within the Premium tier would typically be long-term agreements.