From Pitches to Pitches, Advertising and Football

Like almost all sports, football is no stranger to the symbiotic relationship of sports and advertisers.

In fact, as football is one of the world’s most popular sports, it is heavily entwined with brands seeking to advertise. From huge logos on shirts to stadium naming rights, the relationship that advertisers have with football has evolved over the years and is now something that many might see as inseparable from the modern game. In this article, we will touch on some interesting points about the relationship between advertising and football, including what the sponsorship of a team is worth, both for the team and the advertiser.

Eyes on the prize, visibility grows brand awareness

It’s no secret that advertisers want to get as much visibility on their products and brands as possible, ideally with the smallest amount of effort or money spent on their part as possible. This is one of the key reasons that there is so much advertising surrounding football, it’s an incredibly popular sport after all. Millions of fans travel to stadiums or tune in to football today on TV UK to watch their favourite teams, which is millions of eyes on whatever the players are wearing, whatever is shown along the sidelines and whatever is shown during the ad breaks.

When Erling Haaland or a similar superstar smashes through a goal and all eyes are on him, it’s very valuable for a sponsor to have their logo featured prominently as he celebrates, potentially lending fans to associate their brand or product with the success of their team.

How much is a football sponsorship worth to a club?

This isn’t an easy question to answer other than saying ‘a lot’ but that’s not a very satisfactory answer. It depends entirely on the individual contracts between specific sponsors and the clubs that they are sponsoring and whatever contract deal they have worked out together, which isn’t all necessarily readily available public information. However, we can speculate somewhat. If we look at a top-tier team like Man United, the publicly available information shows that they earn approximately £200m a year from their various sponsorship deals, which is about 25% of their total revenue.

Other teams at the same level presumably make similarly large sums of money from their own sponsors, trending upwards or downwards depending on how successful they might have been in the last season or two. Winning more football matches is likely to attract more sponsors. This revenue can be used by a club to do just about anything they might like, from investing in stadium upgrades to getting new talent under contract to play for them.

What does an advertiser get out of the relationship exactly?

This is potentially an even more difficult question to answer, as a sponsorship doesn’t often provide any sort of quantitatively measurable effect for the sponsor. The main thing that a sponsor or advertiser gets is brand awareness, as we’ve discussed. But what is brand awareness worth, why do they desire it so much? If TeamViewer is paying Manchester United £47m a year for a jersey sponsorship, is TeamViewer getting that much or more in value in return?

The answer is, probably yes, if TeamViewer thinks it’s worth putting that much into a sponsorship, then whatever they are getting out of the deal is certainly of like worth in value and the same is true for all other sponsorships of football clubs. Promotion and brand awareness are seemingly very important for many companies and being able to borrow a shade of the glory that a football club might earn, thereby also earning customer loyalty from fans of the club, is also valuable.

It should also be said that sponsorship contracts might also come with deals relating to other marketing including the club’s players, further lending a club’s reputation to that of the sponsor. This reputation borrowing is especially true for teams that are well known for being active in charitable and educational activities, as the sponsor can be seen as helping to fund those activities, which is excellent for their brand.

Regulation and the question of morality in football advertising

While the regulations on who can become a sponsor are somewhat minimal, there has been a movement in recent years to separate gambling from being so readily accessible and entwined with football. Particularly in the UK, there has been a strong movement to ban gambling advertising and make it easier to protect vulnerable people from becoming addicted to activities that can be financially destructive. As a result of this, it seems that gambling sponsors of football clubs might be a thing of the past as the UK government is considering banning that interaction.

In closing, sponsorships and advertising are an integral part of football. They help clubs to pad out their budgets and they allow companies and brands to reach wider audiences and support communities in an interesting way. As long as sponsorships and advertising related to football are carried out in a morally conscious way, there seems little harm in it.