Nissan to replace Ford as Champions League sponsor

Nissan is set to take over Ford’s multi-million pound UEFA Champions League sponsorship deal following the latter’s decision to end its 20-year tie to the tournament

Nissan could use the Champions League to support its plan for a more consistent brand positioning across its markets.

The Japanese business is understood to have penned a four-year deal with European football’s governing body to become only the second car brand associated with the 22-year old event. It will be announced at this season’s final in Lisbon, Portugal (24 May), which is expected to be viewed by more than 300 million people in more than 200 countries.

Sports marketing analysts estimate UEFA’s latest sponsorship packages cost in excess of £45m per year. It is understood Nissan offered a “sizeable fee” to organisers before Ford started re-negotiating for the next cycle, and ultimately chose not to match it, according to a source a close the matter. The value of Nissan’s deal is not known. 

The auto firm is likely to use the Champions League’s global profile to support its switch to a less regionally driven and more globally centralised structure. The company overhauled its agency lineup last October to accelerate the shift and develop a consistent tone of voice across its markets.

The changes are an attempt to change perceptions it is a functional rather than desirable brand as it looks to lift value sales. While sales in the US, China and Mexico hit record highs in 2013 much of its growth in North America came from aggressive pricing.

Sponsorship experts say Nissan’s move could also be related to its attempts to offset stagnating demand in Europe and establish a more cost-effective brand awareness strategy. Nissan blamed “sluggish conditions” in Europe after posting just a 1 per cent increase in global sales for the nine months to December 2013.

James Hough, managing director at Mediacom Sport UK, adds: “The Uefa Champions League, as an international brand and product, is totally unique and on par with the English Premier League – it represents unrivalled international reach for sponsors on an annual basis. You can understand why Nissan have taken the opportunity to steal a march on Ford and go take on these set of rights.”

The news of Nissan’s Champions League deal comes just days (11 March) after Ford announced it would walk away from the event at the end of the season. The car brand, which was one of the league’s founding sponsors in 1992, said at the time it would instead concentrate on “accelerating new product launches” across Europe over the next five years.

Nissan has been on a sponsorship drive in recent years becoming a tier one partner for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and partnering with the British Olympic and Paralympic Associations.

Nissan was unable to provide a response by the time this article was published. A UEFA spokeswoman declined to comment

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