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The core argument of football clubs (and other sports rights holders) is always about the positive impact of a sponsorship on the brand of the sponsor. Usually these conversations include TV viewing figures, the captive audience in the stadium, the number of sold shirts and recently the number of times the team that carries the sponsor’s logo is played on Playstation – so clubs talk more about reach than actual brand impact.

To be honest, a sponsorship is only one part of a wider branding strategy and needs to be assessed against each brands’ objectives. At the same time, branding is only one aspect of a sponsorship agreement and you can read more about the other aspects in my previous post “Questions & Answers about an EPL sponsorship”.

This post, in contrast, purely focuses on the brand impact of Jobsite’s sponsorship of Portsmouth Football Club. All the figures quoted and slides shared were prepared by our Brand Tracking agency HPI and are based on industry accepted research standards. To assess our sponsorship we needed a benchmark and therefore compare our sponsorship of Portsmouth Football Club against the sponsorships of Stoke City, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea as well as OKI’s previous sponsorship of Portsmouth. None of these figures are a reflection on the sponsors or the sponsorship performance (as only the brands know their objectives), it’s just a benchmark for us.

The sample has an age range from 23 to 54 years and a salary range from £18k to £50k; you can find further information on the sample here.

When reviewing the sponsorship we divided the audience into three categories – ‘All respondents’. ‘Have an interest in football’ and ‘Active supporters (of a club)’.

One last thing:

W4 = Sept 09, W5 = Nov 09, W6 = Feb 10, W7 = May 10, W8 = Aug 10

Okay, let’s get started.

Sponsorship association – Replacing a previous sponsor

The first slide compares our brand performance (blue) against the performance of the previous sponsor “OKI” (yellow).

The rule of thumb is that it takes a minimum of two years to replace the former sponsor in the minds of the individuals. The transition to Jobsite was speedier, mainly based on the unprecedented off field shenanigans and on-field performance.  You can see this especially in Wave 7 (administration, relegation, FA Cup Semi Final and Final).

Sponsorship knowledge – linked to a club’s success

The slide below shows a benchmark of our sponsorship of Portsmouth against the teams mentioned above. Please keep in mind that Manchester United changed sponsor from AIG to AON in W8.

I have to say, I find it remarkable how quickly the Jobsite sponsorship has reached levels of Stoke and – more surprisingly – Manchester City. It also shows:

  • The more continuously successful the club, the higher the awareness levels
  • Average performing clubs – i.e. not playing for the title or against relegation – bring least value. Keep that in mind when negotiating.
  • Sponsorship is always influenced by the rest of the marketing mix.
  • 50%+ awareness levels can also be achieved when sponsoring a smaller club for a longer period and increasing engagement beyond pure above the line activities.

Sponsorship perceptions – club, brand and commercialism

The next slide highlights the various perceptions of a football sponsorship – does it benefit the club, the brand, the local area, the fans?

The chart shows that whilst everybody appreciates that a sponsorship is a commercial deal, it also becomes clear that there are different dimensions, relationships and dynamics:

  • The more local the sponsor (in location and activity), the more the club and the local area are perceived of benefiting
  • Local sponsors are also perceived as being less off putting and less about being purely commercial
  • The big, successful clubs are not perceived to need a sponsor and do not benefit from a sponsor. Here, sponsorship is mainly seen as a brand awareness driver for the advertiser.
  • The brand fit between sponsor and club is dependent on the length of the sponsorship, the clarity of the relationship as well as the awareness of the local link.

Sponsorship benefits – club versus sponsor

The slide below shows the perception on who benefits most from a sponsorship, the club or the sponsor.

It’s felt that smaller clubs benefit more from the relationship than the sponsors, whereby with bigger clubs, the sponsors benefit more.

One size doesn’t fit all

Brand impact – especially in the EPL – is significant, but more on a recall, passive level. It’s really important to remember that branding is only one part of a sponsorship and judging it only against this criterion is limiting.

However, it does show that smaller clubs (by that I mean anybody not qualifying for the Champions League on a regular basis) and clubs outside the EPL, need to move away from the ‘brand reach’ argument. On the one hand side, it doesn’t stack up and just shows that the clubs don’t understand ‘branding’. On the other hand, if clubs would find new angles and benefits, they could open up a much bigger list of potential sponsors and create longer and healthier relationships between club, sponsor, fan base and local area.

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