There’s No ‘I’ In Team
Athlete endorsements are not a new concept. Brands have been using household names to increase the sales of their products for hundreds of years. It adds credibility, differentiates from competitors and becomes synonymous with the athlete.
In recent years, athletes and personalities are generating enormous revenue from sponsorships that surpass their earnings from their respective professions. Sport, is of course, the stand out example here, but movie stars are not far away. In 2016, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is estimated to have earned more than $51 million from various endorsements. In sport, there is no bigger example than Cristiano Ronaldo who generated more than $250 million throughout 2016 from numerous deals, including; a lifetime deal with Nike and a host of other deals with brands such as Herbalife, Toyota, Armani, Tag Heuer, Castrol and Monster Headphones.
Celebrities are not just competing against each other for sponsors, they are competing against teams, in some circumstances, their own team. In 2016, Real Madrid amassed over $265 million in sponsorship revenue which is not a small amount. Compared to their star man, it is only $15m more.
The attractiveness of an individual is their engaged fans, who idolise them, some of which would purchase anything that their idol endorses. Teams, of course, have these fans but they are potentially less engaged. With stars becoming bigger than the teams they are in, teams need to become more creative with their assets and increase their offering to a potential sponsor.
What a team does have that an individual cannot offer are larger media platforms, which include branding within stadium for matches, stadium naming rights, and kit sponsorship. This provides a tangible link to the team and is where the majority of value stems from in sponsorship. However, with the increase in recent years of Social Media, athletes are catching up with the teams and in some circumstances surpassing them. Real Madrid’s Twitter followers are 6.7 million, Cristiano Ronaldo’s is 49.3 million!
The team does however, have access to not just one athlete, but an entire team of athletes. It is standard in most contracts for players to commit to sponsor activations such as player appearances, image rights to use in sponsor campaigns and even the use of their social media. This eclipses the offering one player can offer a sponsor. Team sponsorship will offer larger awareness. In addition, teams can also offer direct fan engagement, not just through media channels. Utilising stadium assets such as activation areas and hospitality for B2B engagement.
Barcelona’s partnership with tyre manufacturer Lassa is a perfect example. Through its sponsorship of Barcelona, Lassa leveraged player access and created an entire advertising campaign featuring Arda Turan, Gerard Pique, Neymar and Luis Suarez. Through this they now have multiple athlete endorsers, not just one.
Although the teams have a greater pool of assets to offer a sponsor, it is crucial they offer creative and ROI driven activations for a sponsor. If not, these individuals could even start poaching sponsors from under their nose.