Is Barcelona Football Club Selling Out? 1st March, 2011

In a season where we have seen Torres leave Liverpool for Chelsea (not before he had ‘You’ll never walk alone’ tattooed on his arm) and Rooney demand a transfer only to reconsider once he had an upgrade, football fans would be forgiven in thinking that the game had finally lost its soul.

With all the cash being pumped into the Premier League and numerous new owners buying their way into the hype, as a fan you can’t help but feel less engaged with the game.

Barcelona Football Club is a great example of the shift in football sponsorship funding.  For years, Catalan purists raved about 111 years without a sponsor.   The positioning showcased their love of the game and created fan loyalty to their brand.  This year, they provided the main shirt sponsorship spot to UNICEF – providing this charity a fantastic opportunity to drive awareness and raise much needed funds to the cause.  Through this sponsorship, Barcelona was able to create an emotional response from their fans by supporting UNICEF in this way – further increasing their fan loyalty.  It also provided a stepping stone for the club into brand sponsorship ensuring that they didn’t isolate their die hard supporters.

The introduction of UNICEF’s sponsorship has helped pave the way for the Qatar Foundation to come on board as an official sponsor through a 5 year deal for a total cost of £125 million. The non-profit foundation funded by the Al-Thani family, has splashed out on one of the most lucrative sponsorship opportunities available.  This raised further issues with the winning bid for the 2022 World Cup with many of the rival bids believing the deal was in place before, as the Barcelona team had such an influential part to play in their selection.  

Speculation indeed, but whatever the answer this is certainly one of the most far reaching and eye catching sponsorship deals this year. Manchester United’s sponsorship deal worth £80 million over 4 years with AON in 2009 now seems like a distant memory.