Football tournaments provide a better match for sponsors

Sport sponsorship is a great way for a company to build a brand, and football tournaments offer an unrivalled global audience, as Euro 2004 in Portugal demonstrated, says Philippe Margraff

Few marketing platforms can match the brand-building opportunities offered by sports sponsorships, with the guarantee of exposure in print, broadcast and new media. In the highly emotive world of sport, the audience sees sponsorship as support for something to which they feel great attachment.

Sports marketing has come a long way since the early days of Mark McCormack and IMG. When he signed a young golfer called Arnold Palmer in 1960, McCormack cannot have imagined the global business he was about to create through innovative promotions. His talent for getting the best possible marketing deals for his clients was second to none.

Yet for organisations such as UEFA, there are different challenges. UEFA holds many high-profile competitions, such as the annual UEFA Champions League, but the flagship tournament is the UEFA European Football Championship, which is held every four years. The tournament competes against other major events such as the Olympics, and has to capture the imagination of competing nations almost as soon as the World Cup is over and the qualifying campaign begins. At UEFA we have developed a programme, EUROTOP, which aims to enhance the existing commercial offering for sponsorship partners and build on the success of Euro 2004 in Portugal. Euro 2004 was undoubtedly the most successful European Football Championship we have had, and we believe that it has taken the “Euro” brand to a new level, in the way the 1998 World Cup in France did for FIFA.

EUROTOP reduces the number of top sponsors from eight in 2004 to six in 2008, and will provide an extensive set of broadcasting and integrated media rights opportunities to a select group of partners. The EUROTOP Programme, which covers the top men’s, women’s, youth and indoor European National Team competitions between 2006 and 2009, encapsulates in-house management of television, marketing, licensing, new media, hospitality and event delivery, as well as full integration of all associated rights in “one” comprehensive sponsorship programme.

It comes down to the simple concept of quality over quantity, giving sponsors a clearer identity and allowing sporting bodies to develop integrated events for the benefit of fans that also ensure brand awareness. Despite reducing the number of commercial partners, UEFA expects revenues from sponsorship and TV deals to generate E1bn (&£667m).

Football is probably the only sport where a global approach can work successfully. The Association of Tennis Professionals tried something similar a few years ago, offering ten sponsors an association with the Masters series, but the deal collapsed in 2001.

An average of more than 150 million viewers watched each football match in Euro 2004, with 273 million people tuning in for the final. In the UK, the highest audience was 20.7 million. For sponsors, such figures underline why it is so important to be associated with football tournaments of magnitude.

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