The Premier League needs to build its brand as it drops title sponsorship

The Premier League needs to build and communicate clear brand values in order to succeed without a title sponsor from 2016, despite the fact that it has been ‘out marketing’ its title sponsors for years.

The Premier League’s announcement at its Annual General Meeting yesterday (4 June) that it will drop title sponsorship as of 2016 to be renamed simply as the “Premier League” was partly due to its desire to create “clean branding”, like that of the NBA or NFL, that will help with developing clear global communication.

It has had a sponsor since Carling came on board in its 1993/94 season, followed by Barclaycard in 2001 and Barclays in 2004.

The move offers the Premier League an opportunity to build its brand values and personality, which until now have been unclear, according to sponsorship experts.

Tim Crow, CEO of Synergy Sponsorship, told Marketing Week: “If you ask consumers what the Premier League stands for, the overwhelming answer will be money. This has been a tough place for Barclays to be, and a contributing factor in how they have struggled to leverage the Premier League in a meaningful way for most of their time as a sponsor.”

While he said the Premier League has been “out marketing” its title sponsors for years, Crow added that in order to make its new model work, the Premier League needs to “work on what its brand stands for and what are its values”.

Ruper Pratt, co-founder of Generate Sponsorship, agreed. He said: “This will enable the Premier League to invest in and grow their own brand without having to carry a corporate title partner, a tactic that has served the NBA and NFL well.”

While the Premier League arguably has greater global awareness and popularity than the NBA or NFL, Crow added that the move will see the Premier League work on “building and deepening their brand” rather than spreading its appeal.

“The NBA would kill for the global reach and popularity that the Premier League has,” he said. “There’s a whole set of options available to them now.”

The announcement came after rumours that current sponsor Barclays would axe its sponsorship deal at the end of the 2015/16 season over concerns at the cost of renewal.

However, the title sponsorship is a “drop in the ocean” in Premier League revenue according to both Crow and Pratt, which is largely driven by its TV deal.

“It’s become a very small part of the central income that the clubs generate,” Crow said. “It doesn’t really matter to them as much as it did.”

Pratt added: “The broadcast arrangement dwarfs any sponsorship income, taking the pressure off the need for sponsorship.”

While the new approach will allow the League to “add a number of additional partnerships” according to a Premier League spokesman, Pratt said: “If this works, the potential merchandising and licensing revenue globally will dwarf the sponsorship income.”