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Q&A on English Premier League sponsorship

Now that the dust is settling on the financial situation, the rollercoaster of a season is drawing to a close and Portsmouth FC is facing Spurs in the FA Semi-Cup final, let me answer some of the questions about an English Premier League Sponsorship that I have been asked since Jobsite became the main club sponsor of Portsmouth FC.

Before I start I want to highlight, underline, in italics, in bold: everything you read in this post is seen purely from a marketing/branding perspective, not from the perspective and with the emotions of a football fan. But believe me, since signing the deal my Saturday afternoons haven’t been the same anymore…

For all you marketing and branding professionals and all you general cynics out there, yes, we have tracked all the impact on brand dimensions media values, social net promoter scores, so this post is based on knowledge not pure opinion. Let’s get started…

Why sponsor a Premier League team?

Our decision to sponsor Portsmouth Football Club was informed by the analysis of our TV campaign. We learned through our media planning activity that a significant proportion of the recruitment budget holders are watching live sports, especially football. The consistently most watched football programme of all is Match of the Day – viewed by 25% of all viewers on a Saturday night.  Let’s be honest, if I could advertise on the BBC I would and a sponsorship is as close as you get.

Besides this unique branding, the sponsorship also allows us to give our clients, partners and employees a unique experience and through the relationships of the club with major stake holders and other commercial partners also unique revenues.

What’s the value of the deal?

Sorry, I can’t tell you the value of the deal, but let’s just say, don’t believe everything you read or hear in the media. I can tell you, however, how the deal is structured.

It’s broken down in 3 parts: a tenancy (rights) deal, a business performance element and a football performance element. On this note, there’s no such thing as a game that doesn’t count, every single one counts towards the income of the club.

Do you get anything else besides your brand on a shirt?

Oh yes. Being the main club sponsor is so much more than just having your name and logo on a shirt and on all the stationary and signage. In our case it includes player appearances, flights to away games, opportunity to participate in the training, incredible world-class corporate hospitality with access to otherwise closed off parts, involvement of our employees, activation days for other group brands, access to data (permission depending) and the list goes on & on. Standing on the pitch just before kick off is a phenomenal treat. Don’t take my word for it, read what our guests had to say…

Real Excitement – Steve Boese

Business Culture supporting Community Culture – Trish McFarlane

TruLondon II – a little fun, friends & football -Bryan Wempen

Pompey vs Stoke – Mike Taylor

There are a multitude of opportunities, many of them appearing during the season, so give yourself enough wriggle room in the contract for additional activities. We, for example, launched JobAid with Portsmouth FC and the Premier League during the season. It mainly comes down to seeing the sponsorship as a part of your on-going marketing activities, assessing your available resources (mainly manpower) and your relationship with the club.

How have the negative headlines for PFC impacted Jobsite?

The performance of the football team does not impact the brand negatively. I don’t subscribe to the “No PR is bad PR” line, but if the team is performing badly it’s the team and club that receives the bad PR, not the sponsor; so even relegation doesn’t have a negative effect on a brand’s reputation.

At this stage let’s also look at media value and brand impact:

To achieve high media value either sponsor a team that fights for the title or a team that fights for survival (not as extreme as Portsmouth, but in terms of relegation). Structure your contract to allow for a drop in media value if the team is transformed into a solid mid table team. Interestingly, from all the different media channels, interview backdrops have the highest impact.

The brand impact is mainly reactive. It’s more about recall and prompted brand awareness. It’s important to see a sponsorship as an important part of the marketing mix that underpins other above the line activity but also enriches engagement marketing activities with the local community and via social media. So add a booster sample for the local community into your brand tracker and keep a close eye on your social media mentions and net promoter scores.

How can you be so clinical about it?

Honestly, I am not. But it’s key to compartmentalise – key for the internal decision making process, key for negotiations, key for one’s own sanity, and key for tracking the brand impact.

What about involvement beyond the football club?

That’s an opportunity that I completely underestimated when we started: a club is so key to a local community that it has a multitude of stake holders: Fans, universities & colleges, youth teams, study centres, public sectors, politicians, other sponsors, etc. Set out clear planning principles at the beginning otherwise it’ll be difficult to choose where to get involved in.

Obviously every brand is different, but as a local brand and a local employer it’s absolutely crucial and also very rewarding to get involved with every single one of these, especially the supporters. As a new sponsor supporters will be hesitant about you and even rival supporters chip in with opinions – humility, patience and engagement are the key ingredients here.

What about the international dimension?

For Jobsite the sponsorship was all about the UK market, but don’t underestimate the pull of the English Premier League around the world. It’s quite remarkable. The EPL is unique and global, similar only to the NBA. We here in England are so used to it, that we don’t see its incredible global appeal. There are more hours of premier league football being watched outside of England than within So it’s a fantastic vehicle for international impact and some of the sponsors that you see and wonder about, are actually only involved because of the international dimension.

On this note – PUP!!!!

A related article “Measuring the brand impact of an English Premier League sponsorship” shows our brand performance dimensions versus the sponsorships of ManU, Man City, Chelsea and Stoke.

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