Liverpool FC’s board can expect likely new owners New England Sports Ventures’ (NESV) to be willing partners in their pursuit to maximise the club’s global commercial appeal with an increase in overseas sponsorship deals and a licensing push predicted.
The owner of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, NESV is likely to become the new owners of the Premier League club now that Tom Hicks and George Gillett have lifted the restraining order that prevented a deal being completed, and will immediately turn its attention to boosting Liverpool’s fortunes on and off the pitch.
Commercially, Liverpool, as one of the world’s most successful and best-known clubs, are already one of the world’s most successful revenue generators.
The club’s commercial income has tripled in recent years under the stewardship of commercial director Ian Ayre, with income swelling to £185m in the year to 30 July 2009.
That figure is only likely to be inflated further when the monies from partnership agreements with 188BET, Lucozade and the £80m four-year shirt sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered are factored in for the last financial year.
The already commercially-minded Liverpool board will be backed by NESV, which, under the direction of John W Henry, has proved itself to be a canny operator in exploiting the commercial opportunities available from world-famous sports teams.
The number of Boston Red Sox sponsors has climbed to over 100 from the 40 inherited when NESV took over in 2002, including an official plumber, pizza and sandwich.
NESV is also widely praised by fans for opting to redevelop the Red Sox’s iconic Fenway Park stadium over building a new ground. In doing so, observers say, match day revenue was increased without alienating fans by moving to an unfamiliar location with none of the resonance of the Fenway brand.
It is unlikely, sponsorship experts say, that NESV will take the sponsor “everything that moves approach common” employed in the US.
Instead, the club could follow the lead of rivals Manchester United in signing local sponsorship deals with companies in parts of the world where the club is popular such as Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia.
Also expect NESV to attempt to leverage the link between both major sporting properties, Liverpool and the Red Sox, in their respective markets in a similar manner to the tie-up between Manchester United and the New York Yankees last decade.
Pippa Collett, managing director of Sponsorship Consulting, says: “I certainly expect NESV to look at every opportunity to sweat all assets of the club if they become the owners of Liverpool. They [NESV] have a great track record and will look to identify what from their portfolio of activities in the US can be transferred to the UK market.
Antony Marcou, managing director of sports media agency Sports Revolution says that NESV will help Liverpool grow globally.
“Liverpool is a global brand, which means NESV’s licensing experience could have great success generating revenue in the US or the Far East, perhaps more so than in Liverpool’s domestic market.”
Of course, it is success on the pitch that will be the ultimate defining factor in the club’s commercial success. Under manager Roy Hodgson, the club has had an inauspicious start to the current season. It is also four years since the club has won a trophy and two decades since they last won the league title.
All this means, argues Marcou, is that a licensing strategy “placing the focus on the club’s history and heritage, which Liverpool has in abundance that will be more lucrative for the time being”.
The club’s board, and Ayre in particular, will be hoping that NESV inspires the same success on the pitch as they did at the Boston Red Sox – the team won their first World Series in 86 years in 2004 – a sure-fire catalyst to commercial success.