Are Brands Getting the Best Value From Their Premier League Sponsorships? – Luca Massaro, WePlay

September 16, 2015

With research claiming that Premier League shirt sponsors are losing £10m per year, many are calling out for a wholesale transformation in brand strategy.

However, people need to tread carefully and take the report with a pinch of salt.

Whilst the headline is visually arresting and emotionally stirring, it’s important to note that many Premier League shirt sponsors have done an impressive job of marketing their brands across a range of platforms and regions.

That being said, there is definitely room for improvement. By using a reach, engage and convert model, brand sponsors will be better positioned to take advantage of existing partnerships.

Market mix

The Premier League’s platform as a global event proves particularly appealing to sponsors eager to penetrate lesser developed areas, known as ‘dark markets’.

Having your name sprawled across the chest of world renowned football players might offer incredible global exposure, but on its own cannot suffice.

Although this exposure, or ‘market mix,’ extends into multiple facets of daily life, brands must do more to capitalise on this existing infrastructure.

The truth is never as prosaic as it seems – by developing and implementing a bespoke marketing strategy, brands can look to bait, line and hook fans in a more efficient and targeted manner.

The first area of sponsorship strategy returns to the idea of ‘reach’. Premier League kit sponsorship carries with it the potential for a number of different verticals; it’s important that brands align themselves with a club that matches their intended objectives.

Proper analysis of a club’s market reach will enable brands to capitalise on existing fan bases.

For example, betting companies are particularly keen to exploit ‘dark markets,’ typically in the Far East, and use the Premier League as a global platform to achieve these objectives; even industry-leading companies such as Yokohama, Etihad and Emirates factor in these deliverables.


Selecting a club is a very refined process. The smart brand will devote a considerable amount of research into market penetration and consumer reach.

Engage to excite

Outreach comes as the first natural step in a brand’s marketing strategy, but the real bread and butter arrives in the form of engagement and interactive content. We call these tools ‘sticky environments,’ for their ability to not merely reach fans, but turn awareness into engagement.

‘Liking’ a page on Facebook and ‘following’ brands and teams on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube creates another layer of conversation in the engagement process.

To build relationships, brands must buck the trend of incessant ‘salesy’ advertising, an archaic process which treats the consumer as no more than another dollar sign.

Gamification has become a clever way for the adept brand to draw in consumers without explicitly marketing a product or service.

The savvy marketer will look to exploit this area, particularly as users shy away from traditional forms of advertising. Just as electrifying football thrills fans off the pitch, so too does exciting marketing.

In charting the digital waters, ‘sticky environments’ cut to the core of how we measure successful marketing. These techniques ensure that user retention remains high, which helps keep an audience coming back for more.

Tapping into the natural pull of social media can benefit the struggling football sponsor. After all, the benefits of this stage are pivotal to a brand’s overall success; by creating ‘sticky environments,’ brands can hook fans into their products and services by offering content that not only pleases but engages.

Conversion flows from engagement

Once sponsors develop a refined strategy to engage a target market, the act of converting them into lifelong fans is far less taxing; it flows naturally from the process.

Though on the face of it our modern world appears increasingly digitalised and automated, numbers are ultimately trumped by the human element, which still proves the guiding force in B2C marketing.

It’s important that sponsors don’t view fans as merely another number in their portfolio. Successful brands treat the consumer as an individual, discovering their likes and dislikes and building a strategy that drives at their unique persona.

In marketing, just as in life, building a relationship goes a long way towards reaching, engaging and converting a target audience. For the struggling Premier League sponsor, more effort needs to be made in delivering and producing content that people can actively get involved with.

As competition on the pitch soars so too do brand rivalries off it. The most successful Premier League shirt sponsor remains focused on certain key deliverables: align with an appropriate club, reach a targeted audience, engage with exciting material, and allow conversion to develop naturally.

For brands trying to generate greater returns on Premier League investment, this complex mosaic of B2C interaction can be made all the easier when companies follow a clear and proven path.


LucaMassaroLuca Massaro is a Director at Digital Agency WePlay, specialising in helping brands and rights holders navigate the digital landscape and convert their communities into customers. He is also the founder of popular digital sport publication, Future Sport.


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