David Benady is right (MW March14) that the pendulum had swung too far, but football is still a beautiful game.
Yes, clubs, and their stadiums in particular, are covered in an awful lot of sponsors’ advertising. To make any sponsorship work to mutual advantage, both club and sponsor have to see themselves as equal business partners.
Sponsors are naive if they think that, just by having their name on a club’s shirt and a few pitchside hoardings and programme ads, they will increase brand awareness and, ultimately, product sales. Attendances at football matches are increasing and the spending power of the average spectator is much greater than it used to be, but people go to a football match or switch on to Gary and Des and Co primarily to watch football.
The idea that it’s enough to expect spectators to subliminally absorb a message that they should drink this product, buy that type of car, arrange their mortgage through this bank, especially one they’ve hardly heard of or have no idea how to contact, is just wishful thinking. You have to do a lot more than that.
I can only speak from experience. Our relationship with Wolves and sponsorship of its Youth Academy works well because we’ve both learned to support what we do in the ground with local branch activity, direct mail to season ticket holders, competitions for tickets among staff and customers and use of corporate hospitality to entertain suppliers and reward sales staff. Having a partner that has a similar heritage, shared business principles and aspirations and is active in the same geographical area is also vital.
Successful football sponsorship is not just about getting a fair and reasonable price. Both sides have to realise that the deal is much more than an arrangement between the sponsor’s sponsorship department and the club’s commercial department. It’s a partnership that has to extend into all areas of both the sponsor’s and the club’s operations.
Staffordshire Building Society