Quantity or Quality in Sponsorship
The quantity of sports team sponsors has exploded in the last few years. In the not too distant past a sports club would be happy with a major sponsor on the front of their shirt and a kit sponsor to provide the team equipment.
In the age of globalisation, sports organisations see sponsorship as an enabler of expansion, allowing them to reach potential fans wherever their sponsors may be based as well as a key technique to raise revenue for both the club and the sponsor.
Manchester United embodies this new approach. Already a global brand with fans around the world, in more recent years Manchester United have aggressively pursued sponsorship and partnerships from less traditional corners of the footballing globe.
Manchester United’s Integrated Telecommunications Partners are split up by region, meaning for each of the following areas they have an entirely separate brand acting as sponsor; Hong Kong, Azerbaijan, Bahrain & Kuwait, Nigeria & Ghana, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. This approach allows the club to maximise revenue across a particular industry.
More obscure sponsors include Japanese company Nissin Foods Group acting as Official Global Noodle Partner while Malaysian brand Kansai has taken on the role of Official Paint Partner of Manchester United. These are in addition to the more traditional financial and motor companies who are considered the clubs major sponsors.
The argument for this proliferation of brand sponsorships is that it raises revenue for the club, as well as raising the clubs profile in less traditional parts of the world, all of which should translate to the clubs bottom line. In turn the brands benefit from this increased exposure and allegiance with a successful club.
However if not done correctly the sheer amount of sponsors in fact dilutes the clubs image of exclusivity and prestige which prospective sponsors may come to view as a drawback. Such a multinational and seemingly unselective approach to sponsorships could also erode the identity that years of success and history have helped to create.
There is an argument for clubs to reconsider this approach and focus on fewer, more focused and appropriate brands. It could result in greater bargaining power for the clubs by bringing back some of the feeling of exclusivity they may have lost.
With the most recent 2015 Premier League television deal worth over £5 Billion, a 71% increase on three years previously, the vast sums of money to be made in football suggest that this trend is more likely to accelerate than reverse. Brands are showing no signs of being put off by the prospect of clubs retaining more and more sponsors. However if the trend continues on the current path, there may come a day when less is considered more.