Football League ‘scrambling’ for title-sponsor after B&Q pulls plug on deal

Football League chiefs are in a race against time to secure a title-sponsor before the start of next season after B&Q pulled out of a deal to replace current backer npower at the last minute.

Football League chiefs are in last ditch push to find a backer for npower.

The DIY business emerged as the front-runner to land the sponsorship earlier this year however it is understood to have walked away after agreeing a deal in principal. Sources close to the deal said the decision was made after final contracts were assessed by executives at B&Q owner Kingfisher, who expressed concerns over the company’s ability to maximise returns from the tie-up.

The League’s commercial team, led by Richard Heaselgrave, is said by a source to be “scrambling” to find a replacement sponsor in time for the announcement of the 2013/14 season’s fixtures list next month (19 June). It is unusual for a deal not to be tied-up before the date due to the logo and marketing material that need to be prepared ahead of the opening day (17 August) of the tournament.

One source added “every [sponsorship] agency in the country is working on the deal” with organisers unable to find a backer willing to pay the proposed £10m per year as of yet. Dominos had been rumoured to be rivalling B&Q for the rights, however the pizza chain told Marketing Week it had never been in discussions about taking over the sponsorship.

A spokesman for the business said: “While we are flattered to be associated with the sponsorship of the football league, recent reports suggesting we are considering this move are inaccurate.”

The lack of an immediate replacement risks leaving the event without a main commercial backer for the first time in 30 years.

Clifton Asset Management marketing director Kevin Peake, who was npower’s marketing director when it struck the deal with the League in 2010, says the organisation needs to go back “to the drawing board” if it is to woo brands into a deal.

He adds: “The biggest issue any sponsor faces is getting the brand association established immediately to get the value back from £20m+ investment. At npower we found the launch of the seasons fixture list turned out to be the biggest marketing opportunity . It is when every Football League fan is going to go and find out when their team is playing, the dates and your logo get published in papers and we saw the biggest volume in social media during this time also. This means any new sponsor has less than 20 working days left to maximise their first season launch

“It is not impossible for the League to secure a deal between then but they are going to have to think of some new added value to entice sponsors given the time constraints.”

It is the latest development in the League’s seven-month quest to land a sponsor after npower decided not to renew their three-year deal. Commercial chiefs have struggled to land a replacement partner during this time with sponsorships experts claiming the lack of progress could potentially damage the future value of the League as well as the financial stability of some clubs if it continues into the new season.

The Football League declined to comment. B&Q were unable to provide comment by the time this article was published.

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