Sponsorship deals play a vital role in the world of sport. The financial backing of individual performers and teams from brands is paramount to the long-term survival of sports we know and love.
But the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a proverbial spanner in the works for brands who heavily invest in athletes, teams, and events — which threatens the longevity of sport. Take the delay of the Olympic Games and Euro 2020 for example. The cost of both having to be reorganised and reimagined by sponsors is said to be in the billions.
Football — the UK’s most watched sport — will also suffer, with Premier League clubs reportedly set to lose out on £1 billion worth of revenue each.
But despite the clear financial damage being caused, is the pandemic not just highlighting the need for brands to explore more innovative partnerships? Here we look at the brands who’ve been implementing new sponsorship tactics and how it could be a first look into the future.
Just Eat grabs a slice of EFL action
The prolonged delay and eventual return of English football presented both a challenge and an opportunity for sponsors. The challenge — how to promote effectively with no crowds, and the opportunity — taking advantage of the rise in digital viewership.
Step forward Just Eat, the global online food order and delivery service. With games being played behind closed doors, but available to watch on the English Football League’s (EFL) iFollow platform, Just Eat signed up as the league’s official food delivery partner for the rest of the season.
Speaking on the partnership, Matt Bushby, UK Marketing Director, Just Eat, said: “Just Eat is delighted to be supporting the UK's many football fan communities by its sponsorship of the English Football League — as the market leading food delivery service, reaching households across 95 per cent of the UK, we are uniquely positioned to bring joy to football fans all over the country.”
Food is an important part of the matchday experience, and with many games kicking off in the evening, the relationship between food and football has never been stronger. To add a sweetness to the tase of savoury, Just Eat gave away hundreds of streaming passes for fans as part of the deal.
Audi has a lightbulb moment
Car manufacturers are no strangers to the beautiful game. Such is the fascination between footballers and what cars they drive, car brands will gift star players brand-new motors under the provision that it becomes the vehicle of choice when arriving at the training ground.
Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are examples of this kind of partnership. The Spanish and German giants both have Audi as their official car supplier. When La Liga resumed in June, we saw Los Blancos turn up to training in style — with the majority of the squad arriving in an Audi.
But it’s the partnership over in Germany that sparks the most intrigue. The Bundesliga was the first major league to resume play during the pandemic, and therefore the first to finish their campaign.
With time in between the new season, the German automotive company has taken the opportunity to turn its partnership electric. A total of 38 charging points will be installed at Bayern’s training ground, with the squad expected to receive the new Audi E Tron as part of the initiative.
More than half of Bayern’s Audi fleet will be electrified by autumn — which will allow the club to lower its fleet emissions to less than 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre for the start of the new Bundesliga season. The importance of this? It meets the statutory requirement for manufacturer fleets, which applies from January 2021. Plus, it’s a genius way for Audi to promote their electric vehicles.
Levi’s & Kit Kat go electronic — with more to follow?
Away from your traditional sports like football and rugby, there’s a craze that looks like it will last the test of time. And not just that, the competition of playing video games doesn’t require a crowd, at least not in the physical sense.
If you’ve not heard of eSports before, let’s put things into perspective for how popular it is. A 16-year-old by the name of Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf won $3 million in 2016 playing in a Fortnite World Cup — more than Novak Djokovic took home for winning Wimbledon in the same year. That’s some cash prize for playing a video game, albeit the most popular one in the world.
And brands haven’t been shy to back eSports players and teams. KFC recently teamed up with Kairos Esports to launch a campaign for an eSports performance burger. They also run a competition called KFC Royale, where influencers and qualifying players go head-to-head for £15,000 and a KFC Black Card — which gets you free KFC for life.
Fashion brand Levi’s, have signed up as official suppliers for the Prime League — the official League of Legends league from Riot Games for all players in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. It’s a sign that it’s not just elite athletes that are deemed suitable to endorse clothing lines and cars.
Kit Kat also made its first venture into eSports this year and became a sponsor of the Last Bounty Hunt in June — the inaugural Dota 2 event from tournament organiser Blast. The deal provided branding and activation opportunities for the snack provider.
Video gaming is said to be worth $159.6 billion and shows no signs of slowing down in terms of growth. It’s estimated that 495 million people watch and enjoy eSports today, and with live sport set to continue suffering the impacts of no footfall in stadiums or at events, that figure is likely to rise.
We’ve already seen a shift in brand sponsorship with Just Eat capitalising on football being played behind closed doors, and Audi focusing on long-term sustainability goals. Will other brands now think twice about their sponsorship deals? It’s difficult to argue with any brand that does ditch traditional methods and opt for opportunities that are strictly digital.