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Return of Sportfive brand welcomed by French sponsorship market

(Photo by JEFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty Images)

The revival of the Sportfive name after five years of operation under the Lagardère Sports brand has received positive feedback in France, the country of the agency’s origin, according to a leading executive at the French unit.

The Sportfive brand was revived in May this year following the acquisition of Lagardère Sports by H.I.G. Europe, an arm of the international private equity and asset management firm. The French media conglomerate Lagardère retains a 24.9-per-cent stake.

The agency’s executive committee is now based out of Hamburg, Germany but the change in name has been especially welcomed in the French market.

Benjamin Deblicker, vice-president, sales at Sportfive, told SportBusiness that the Sportfive brand is strong in Germany but that in France, “everybody knows” Sportfive. “The business is still the same, but we feel we are stronger, back to ourselves again. Sportfive 2.0 is even stronger and there has been very positive feedback in the market from rights-holders and brands,” he added.

Deblicker believes the rebrand makes clear business sense: “The rebrand of a very strong mark means Sportfive doesn’t start from a low point which is always the case with a rebranding, but with Sportfive moving forward we can build on the strength of the legacy brand which disappeared in 2016.

“With a new name and digitally-orientated corporate identity, visibility, and V for victory logo, we have a new direction, which will galvanise our mission which is purely in sport.”

The origin of Sportfive lay in the 2001 merger of French agencies Jean-Claude Darmon, Sport+, a subsidiary of Canal+ Group, and the German RTL Group’s sports rights division, UFA Sports.

The focus of these businesses was very much on football and the sport remains the mainstay of the day-to-day operation in France, says Deblicker. The agency has exclusive contracts with five clubs to manage sponsorship and hospitality: Olympique Lyonnais, AS St-Etienne, RC Lens, AJ Auxerre, and Valenciennes FC.

Sportfive also keeps the door open with clubs which have in-house management of rights, and has a non-exclusive relationship with the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) based on its brand relationships.

“I think the football market is still in a good position in France,” says Deblicker. “It is below Premier League and Bundesliga level, but football gives brands the best opportunity for awareness, and more brands invest in football than any other sport.

“Although there is no clear link between the national team and the league and clubs, France are the world champions and the good image helps to attract new brands. We are also seeing brands like Uber Eats and Deliveroo come in who are new to French football and all about return on investment – and that’s good for the market to see.”

Deblicker is confident that Sportfive will continue to play a key role within the French football market. The agency, he said, faces competition in some area like selling sponsorship and hospitality from Infront France, and in activation and brand consulting from Havas Sport & Entertainment.

There are smaller agencies which have built brand relationships with one or two brands, but none with the scope of Sportfive across hospitality, sponsorship sales and activation, licensing and merchandising, digital and Olympic. The agency also devotes resources to team sponsorships in handball, rugby union, basketball, and, increasingly, esports.