Football League lines up sponsor

Diageo’s Smirnoff vodka brand is poised to sponsor the Football League’s flagship cup competition in a &£3m-a-year deal that has surprised the industry.

The deal is understood to be worth about &£8m over three years, although Diageo and the Football League would not disclose details. A Diageo spokesman confirmed that the company has been in discussions with the Football League.

Since 2000, the League Cup has been sponsored by beer brand Worthington, owned by Coors Brewers, in a deal worth about &£4m a year. Industry speculation had linked the cup with stablemate Carling over the past month, and many question what benefit the premium Smirnoff brand will gain from the association.

One industry source says he is amazed that Diageo considers the cup a suitable vehicle for Smirnoff, which has never been linked with a mainstream sporting event before. He says the Football League would have been better with a family brand – previous sponsors include the Milk Marketing Board, Littlewoods and Coca-Cola.

He adds that there are always problems with spirits sponsoring mass-market brands. “Surely the limits on promoting alcohol will inhibit the usefulness of the sponsorship? This has wrong-footed a lot of people.”

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