Brand Activation Opinion Premier League

Member Insights: The life of an activation agency working with sports rights holders

July 19, 2023

Russ Yershon is the Director of ConnectingBrands which has been working with football clubs for the last 15 years on behalf of brands who partner with them. In this article Russ explains the intimate details of what it was like to work with clubs when delivering activation projects.

Sponsoring or being a partner of a football club is big business for a brand. In the Premier League, front of shirt sponsorships are in the millions of pounds and also being a sector partner with no branding on the main kit can also be in the millions of pounds if we look at the big six clubs.

Investing multi-millions of pounds for a brand must come with a clear strategy for what they want to achieve and it’s imperative to work very closely with the commercial teams and plan how you will look to activate the many rights you have.

I’ve been lucky enough to work for many sports betting and Trading brands who partner with football clubs to activate and manage their rights. The first piece of advice I would give to a brand entering a partnership is to have a clear strategy of what you want to achieve from the partnership and then actively put a plan together with the commercial team to deliver this throughout the season.

Being proactive, on the front foot and planning before the season starts is key to being ahead of the game when looking at activation. There is a skill to maximising each asset from LED (electronic board match day advertising) to the placing and visual media backdrop logos the brand will have on the pre-and post match interviews.

When it comes to the content access day, it’s important to plan your player access days as early as possible and give yourself 10-12 weeks of planning before filming with the players. Having our own videography team who film, edit and post produce content has given us control of the process, and enables the client to achieve better results.

Working with commercial teams in the build up to the player access day can be challenging as some of the ideas we and the client have in mind are rejected by team management, due to the physicality of some of the tasks / football challenges the partner has in mind.

One of the best player access days we have delivered was last season with West Ham courtesy of client Scope Markets. We delivered a number of fun challenges with players, featuring captain Declan Rice, we also had influencer Behzinga as host and also part of the content.

Our recommendation to brands is to be as creative as you can with player access content, plus we would also highly advise that it can be beneficial to plan how the content will be showcased across the Clubs channels to maximise the number of views by fans.

The way to fully leverage a player access day is to collaborate with a media publisher, so the content you produce can be amplified and syndicated across their channel. There are many publishers such as 433, One Football, DAZN, and SportBible who have an audience that your brand would love to reach and by engaging them in the planning process, with blessing from the football club, can benefit all parties.

Therefore, once the content is post produced, the content can sit on multiple channels (club, partner and media publisher) and type of channel (web, social media, YouTube) delivering multi-million views where the brand gets outstanding awareness.

Dealing with commercial teams can be challenging, but also very rewarding. We have had excellent relationships with commercial teams over the years and the most on the ball teams include Arsenal, Fulham and West Ham.

Setting up weekly status meetings as activation agency with the club and partner is key to consistent dialogue ensuring proactivity and reflection, which can then be used to deliver learnings for future campaigns.

I have worked with plenty of Asian facing brands and their number one priority is awareness. It’s so important for them to have maximum branding on match day and working with commercial teams to deliver that is key. The broadcast arc (area from the main camera which faces the pitch) is key to ensure the brand has the best coverage”

In addition, the key pieces of content include a signing ceremony and delivering content to promote and celebrate Chinese New Year. We have had lots of fun filming players trying to speak mandarin and sharing messages of celebration of Chinese New Year to the brand’s customers and the asian audience.

Sometimes filming can be delivered in one take, other times it may take a few and an example of that was filming on behalf of 12BET with Wolves last season where it took the players a number of takes to deliver the correct message, however, having a relaxed environment and making the players comfortable, enables us to deliver the best content for the brand..

The best type of content which works well are challenges which have a competitive edge. Filming usually takes place at the training ground once the players have finished training and when recording with 3 players, to get the best out of them you need to ensure some kind of competitive content. These are top professionals and are competitive by nature, so it works to engage them with this type of content strand.

When working for a brand of a club, you become a fan instantly. You have to watch the games, follow the team and hope they can achieve their objectives, as this will mean the fans are happy and for the partner, it means positively in their engagement and connection. Plus, this can also mean more live games and therefore more exposure. When it comes to tickets and hospitality, the brand can drive significant engagement by utilising them well through fan competitions and also using them wisely internally to benefit their business.

Some assets which can be very important for brands are money that can’t buy experiences. 

Like content days, it’s important for brands to have a clear strategy on how to utilise money can’t buy rights. From signed shirts, watching the players train, to VIP match day experiences, top level hospitality and also play on the pitch experience at the end of the season, executing these well to benefit the business is vital.

Whether it’s taking key clients and suppliers, entertaining customers, or hosting new prospective clients, having a clear plan and internal process is important. We constantly advise our clients to look at these rights to benefit the business so that you can see an ROI on them, or a clear benefit to long term success. Logistics can play a key part in delivering these and other rights and we take the stress out of this by our extensive experience in knowing how these types of rights are delivering and what needs to be communicated with guests to make it run smoothly”.

Most Premier League Clubs use third party suppliers to evaluate partner rights looking at their reach from brand coverage on match day and many will share results from content day, social media posts or email analysis from the brands engagement via the clubs CRM. These reports are hugely valuable for brand managers to take up the chain for the Board of Directors to see how the sponsorship / partnership is going. With the reach of the Premier League in the billions globally, having your brand visible on match day can give outstanding awareness and seeing the reporting can vindicate the reasoning on why taking up the partnership.

We are hugely passionate about our work and especially our clients’ partnership in football. With many years of engaging with commercial teams at Premier League Football clubs, we know exactly how they work and how we can get the most out of brand partnerships with them. Being proactive, on the ball, having a clear plan of how to activate rights throughout the season makes it a lot easier to make the partnership a success. When the season is up and running it can be manic, so looking ahead is very important as you can’t turn around a player access filming day in a week or two.

It’s an absolute privilege and we have such pride in working for brands who partner with Premier League Clubs and the energy we have to maximise and leverage rights of our clients ensures a constant positive approach to the relationship.

Click here to connect with Russ on LinkedIn

Brand Activation Opinion Premier League