Nationwide international team sponsorships still score at right price

The Football Associations of England and Northern Ireland are looking at other potential backers after team sponsor Nationwide’s right to exclusive negotiations expired. Sponsorship experts say that the partnerships can still add value if they are activated in an imaginative way.

England football team
England football team

The mutual is in the twelfth year of its team sponsorship of the English national side and has been a partner of the Irish Football Association (IFA) for over a decade. However, both deals expire at the end of the 2009/2010 season and negotiations with the two associations are no longer exclusive.

All three parties stress that talks are ongoing but both associations are actively looking at alternatives.

The governing body has reportedly hired sports sponsorship agency IMG to widen the search and said last week that this and the FA Cup sponsorship opportunities are “attracting growing interest as they approach the end of their current term”.

Meanwhile the IFA, has launched its own search for interested parties via sports sponsorship consultancy IEG.

According to some reports, the English FA wants £30m for the right to be official team sponsor, £10m more than the £20m Nationwide is understood to have tabled. This despite the global economic downturn and the squeeze on companies’ marketing budgets. Other sponsors understood to be interested include BlackBerry and Hyundai.

David Peters, head of sponsorship at Carat, says a 50% increase will prove a hard sell.

“It is difficult for an existing sponsor to pay a lot more for the same thing unless they get more rights”.

Nationwide, which also has deals with the Welsh and Scottish FAs, has previously been keen to stress the importance of sponsorship as a means to differentiate itself in the competitive and crowded financial services market. Its sponsorship controller, Chris Hull said such partnerships are “a great way to promote our brand to a huge audience.”

According to the mutual’s website, sponsorship is a means to “consistently emphasise our brand difference to as many people as possible.”

Some sports sponsorship experts believe that the England partnership remains a good fit for the firm as long as it use the property in an innovative way.

David Atkinson, managing partner of Space, says the sponsorship has added some colour to the brand’s communications but has now reached “a tipping point”.

“Nationwide need to find new ways to leverage the sponsorship in a way that engages consumers”, he says.

Karen Earl, chair of sports sponsorship firm Synergy says the association has been “positive” for both parties.

Observers say that national team sponsorship, particularly in a World Cup year when media exposure for the brands involved is at an apogee, is a means to differentiate a brand via an exclusive association. It also provides companies with an opportunity to engage with its existing and prospective customers on a scale that would not be possible by sponsoring an individual club.

As Peters says, it has a role “but at any price”?


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