A football club may not always be able to control its team’s performance on the pitch but its commercial strategy is a different matter. After falling from tenth position to 14th in the Deloitte Football Money League in 2009, Tottenham Hotspur is hoping that a new business strategy working more closely than ever with brand sponsors can help it climb both the sporting and finance tables.
Tottenham Hotspur recently submitted a planning application for a new stadium complex in north London, which the club claims will be a future model for sporting stadia. It hopes to reposition the club as a meeting place at the heart of its local community – more than a venue for football fixtures. Spurs chairman Daniel Levy says he hopes it will be “a vibrant area 365 days a year, and not a stadium with dead space around it”.
“There will be concerts, theatre shows and big screens, which can be used on non-matchdays for all kinds of things and on matchdays to take some of the atmosphere from inside the stadium and push it outside,” says Spurs executive director Paul Barber. “There will be cafés and bars – we are changing the whole atmosphere around the stadium.”
The development, which could open as early as 2013 if everything is approved, will incorporate a 56,250-seat stadium, a public space around the stadium, a public square with two amphitheatres for use in community events and arts activities, a 150-bedroom hotel, a club museum, a club megastore, a huge supermarket and 434 new homes, 40% of which will be affordable housing.
Barber is now charged with securing commercial backers and ensuring that the club’s vision of becoming a central community hub becomes a financial possibility.
“The key thing about the stadium is it is designed to be a catalyst for regeneration of the surrounding area,” he explains. With massive investment in the east of London for the 2012 Olympics and being surrounded by gentrified areas such as Islington, Tottenham’s home patch is ripe for renewal.
“This is the last patch of north-east London to receive significant investment and we see it as being not only great for the football club but great for the area,” Barber says.
The development, which covers 20 acres on and around the club’s present home, has received broad support from nearby residents and the local authority. “London Borough of Haringey has been great. It wants us to stay in the area, it wants us to be successful and it realises a new stadium is key to the future and we have, after all, been here for over 100 years already,” Barber says.
But the Spurs strategy not only relies on being part of a community but bringing brand partners on board to play a key role in supporting the club’s vision. One of Barber’s main tasks is to secure a naming rights partner for the new complex. He believes the project’s commercial appeal is broadened by its community focus.
He explains: “Stadium rights in the UK have always been hindered by the amount of opportunities a sponsor has to associate itself with the stadium. It’s great having a huge logo on the roof but unless you’re in a plane, you can’t see it. It’s great to have your name on the outside of a stadium, but unless it’s a matchday, there will not be much attention on that stadium.”
Barber says the public plaza and other areas will create a new and different opportunity for sponsors. He claims: “Outside the US, this is unusual. It broadens the appeal because those not necessarily into football can get use [of the development] in a completely different way.”
Not only is Barber looking for a long-term stadium naming rights partner, he is also seeking a shirt sponsor for the club because the current four-year deal with gaming firm Mansion comes to an end at the close of this season. He says the shirt sponsor may or may not turn out to be the same company as the naming rights partner. Discussions are taking place, some of which involve both opportunities while some focus on just one or the other.
But in such cash-strapped times, where will Barber find a brand partner? He has been presenting his vision to potential investors around the world, as he must balance the club’s focus on the local community with a global fanbase. “My instinct is the Middle or Far East,” he replies. “So many emerging brands in those regions want the opportunity to establish a global presence quickly through the Premier League. I can’t believe how many brands are emerging with global aspirations just from China alone.”
In terms of its shirt sponsor, Spurs’ £8.5m-a-year deal with Mansion was the seventh biggest in the world when it was signed, even though it is the 14th biggest club. However, the global economic landscape has transformed since then and Barber may have his work cut out to make another similarly impressive deal.
Facts & figures
Tottenham Hotspur was the first football club to secure a £1m shirt sponsorship deal when Hewlett-Packard put its name on the team’s shirts in 1995.
The club’s current deal with online gaming company Mansion was then the seventh largest shirt sponsorship deal in the world worth £8.5m a year for four years from 2006 to 2010.
Spurs currently have the third highest shirt sponsorship deal in the Premier League, behind Manchester United’s deal with AIG (£14.125m) and Chelsea’s deal with Samsung (£13m).
Since the Fifties, the Spurs kit has been manufactured by Umbro, Admiral, Le Coq Sportif, Hummel, Pony, Adidas, Kappa and Puma. It has been sponsored by Holsten, Hewlett-Packard, Thomson and Mansion.