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Russian Premier League ends title sponsor search with Tinkoff deal

Aleksei Miranchuk of Lokomotiv Moscow and Roman Noyshtedter of Dynamo Moscow vie for the ball during their Premier League match (by Epsilon/Getty Images)

The Russian Premier League (RFPL), the top tier of domestic club football, has signed a three-season title sponsorship agreement with financial services group Tinkoff, a deal that is set to have wide-ranging commercial benefits for the organisation and its clubs.

Commencing immediately, the contract spanning the 2019-20 to 2021-22 seasons will mean the competition is rebranded as the Tinkoff Russian Premier Liga. The Tinkoff brand will be integrated into various sponsorship formats, including in television broadcasts, digital platforms and at stadia where games are held.

Tinkoff will pay Rbs300m (€4.2m/$4.6m) per season, according to reports in Russia.

The deal ends a period in which the Russian top flight has been without a title sponsor.

Up to 2005, the league in its current guise did not have a title sponsor, with insurance group Rosgosstrakh then taking on the rights from 2006 to 2010. Fellow insurance company Sogaz was title sponsor from 2011-12 to 2014-15 (after the league adopted a ‘European’ calendar format), before the rights reverted back to Rosgosstrakh from mid-2015 until the end of the 2017-18 season.

Tinkoff has existing ties to Russian football through a sponsorship deal with Premier Liga club CSKA Moscow and plans multiple initiatives to develop the competition’s commercial activities. The company, of which Tinkoff Bank is the main arm, has already developed an integrated marketing campaign for the RFPL.

Tinkoff said it has over five million customers residing in cities and regions in which league clubs play, and hopes to double this client base over the term of its contract.  Tinkoff said the partnership offers clubs an opportunity to sell tickets via new channels and use marketing tools available across the Tinkoff ecosystem.

Tinkoff’s operations are diverse, with a focus on lifestyle services. Tinkoff sells movie, theatre and concert tickets, while the Tinkoff SuperApp helps customers book the likes of restaurant tables and other services offered by commercial partners.

Tinkoff said it plans to leverage the opportunities offered by its ecosystem through its partnership with RFPL, including by tapping into new channels to attract football fans and selling football tickets. Tinkoff SuperApp will soon begin selling tickets to sporting events, including football matches.

Tinkoff also provides travel services, with the company stating football fans will be able to purchase rail and air tickets to see games in other cities and have access to hotel deals with cashback offers.

Anna Mikhina, Tinkoff vice-president, said: “We have long been looking at football, the most popular sport in Russia. We studied some successful partnerships in Europe, when private businesses became title sponsors of the largest national championships.

“We realised that Russian football and its clubs could benefit from unique marketing opportunities and attract new fans to the stands. Therefore, we are confident that this will prove to be an interesting win-win business partnership.”

Sergey Pryadkin, RFPL president, added: We are deeply impressed by Tinkoff’s fresh and sporting character. It focuses on today’s energetic digital audience – the people we rely on strategically. Cooperation with the League marks a new level of Tinkoff’s involvement in football, and we are happy to welcome new partners to our football family.”

The announcement of the Tinkoff deal comes with the RFPL currently assessing possible expansion of the league. The league’s general meeting last month saw a proposal voted on to expand the competition from 16 to 18 teams. Fourteen out of the current 16 top-tier teams voted in favour of the expansion, with only Zenit St Petersburg and Spartak Moscow voting against.

Speaking at the presentation of the Tinkoff deal yesterday (Wednesday), Pryadkin said a proposal has now been put forward to the Russian Football Union (RFU). “There is a solution, it is sent to the RFU,” he added, according to the Tass news agency.

“A working group has been created that will carefully examine the issue. We will make a statement in the near future. The work of the working group will show how ready we are for expansion.”