Football Sponsorships Overview

Introduction

Sports sponsoring dates back to 1976 when Lowly Kettering was awarded a shirt funding by Katerring Tyres. According to Acero et al. (2017), the team was ordered to withdraw from the agreement taking sports about three years to record a second encounter. This time it happened between Liverpool FC and a Japanese conglomerate, Hitachi, in 1979. The agreement sparked a series of successful sponsor relationships across the United Kingdom, positioning the trend as a powerful brand marketing strategy globally due to the massive following football sport has. Today, there are thousands of businesses desperately searching for football clubs to enter into agreements with due to the influence the sport has on marketing brands (Andrews & Greenam, 2020). Sports funding is a tool that companies use to raise brand awareness, and the connection between sponsor money and sport is unique. In modern football, many teams are engaged with sponsors directly or indirectly and the relationships benefit both the teams and the donors. However, many companies have their ways of selecting the best teams for sponsorship since, for instance, some demand the teams have a shared value with their brands. The Fly Emirates, which funds more than five teams, gets the success of the team it supports directly linked to its brand’s success. Therefore, there is a relationship between sponsor money and football.

Why Sponsorship is Necessary

Sports sponsorship helps in marketing events to reach their maximum potential, and in the end, reap more revenue from spectators. By awarding sponsorships to high-end brands, for instance, entertainers, sports events achieve a high level of marketing, thus, recording a higher attendance (Alonso et al., 2020). For example, Fly Emirates funding a half-time show between Real Madrid FC and Barcelona FC by bringing Nicky Minaj to entertain the audience for the 15-minute break makes the football match even more appealing according to Alonso et l. (2020). Compounded with a high level of publicity, this match is likely advertised as between the two teams but presented by Laliga in partnership with the Fly Emirates. Therefore, the main reason why sports sponsorship is necessary is that it helps clubs to receive financial support, and in return to offer brands an opportunity to market their products and services. In such a scenario, Fly Emirates gets a chance to make themselves as a brand more vibrant in the market, and market the two teams to the audience.

The other reason why sports sponsorship is necessary is that it enables teams to focus on performance since sponsors take the responsibility of tracking donations (Ozanne et al., 2020). Club managers only have the responsibility of coordinating how funds received will best be used to achieve better results. For sponsors such as the Fly Emirates, teams must exhibit exceptionally excellent performance because a failure is also reflected on their brands, according to Sima (2019). Therefore, teams strive to remain on top of the league’s table to win contract renewals and to avoid being dropped for better-performing options. Where big names, as is the case of Fly Emirates, are the official sponsors, matches likely gain a high level of attention. Therefore, all this publicity and sports promotion translate to high sales that can be used to finance these teams and further enhance their performance.

Why Companies Sponsor Sports

Companies such as the Fly Emirates see sponsorship as a tool to make their brand more well-known to maximize profit by maintaining a good reputation and being exposed to new markets. By taking care of a team’s financial needs, for instance, Real Madrid FC, the company sees this as an investment because the team participates in high-end competitions that mostly attract bigger audiences. This becomes an opportunity to familiarize more people with the company as a brand (Sports International, 2018). A first gain for sponsoring a team is product marketing benefits that, on the one hand, help the brand be known to new markets, and on the other hand, assist in maintaining the existing market. This promotion is achieved when teams sponsored record good results continuously, thus, associating their success with the sponsor. Further, Fly Emirates benefits from the excitement around its products and services from a large population linked with exceptionally performing teams sponsored by the brand.

Fly Emirates is more comfortable convincing a conglomeration of football enthusiasts from France to purchase their discounted tickets for Spain to fans a match between their sponsored team, Real Madrid FC. This way, the company benefits by recording high sales by selling the tickets and using the team they sponsor to convince their targeted market to buy their ticket. Additionally, the brand may also seize the opportunity to make their products and services known to this group of travelers hence a possibility of building the right brand image that often leads to repeat purchases. In the end, Fly Emirates records a high number of loyal clients, and football enthusiasts, hence further widening their market base. According to Shams et al. (2020), a satisfied customer is a silent marketer. Therefore, it’s likely that such clients will often come back with more buyers and continue expanding the chain by word of mouth. All this can be linked back to Fly Emirates products and services’ initial selling point- sponsoring Real Madrid.

Another reason why companies engage in sports sponsorship is to have a wider audience when launching a new product. By sponsoring big football clubs, Fly Emirates gets the opportunity to drive more views on their website since the match gets dominated by many visual and video advertisements (Waguespack & Ambrose, 2019). These ads are specially designed for football viewers and, in most cases, contribute to generating a high amount of traffic to their website. This opportunity, thus, is used by the sponsor company to introduce their products and services to their websites’ visitors. It is notable that this presents sponsors with an opportunity to penetrate new markets because football has a huge following globally (Buschmann & Wulzinger, 2018). Sports sponsoring, therefore, presents fruitful partnerships between good-performing teams- the fruits of these partnerships are the ever-unending market exposure of the sponsor to new markets and financial support to the team in return.

In February 2020, Fly Emirates signed a contract with Olympique Lyonnais, one of France’s top football clubs, for five years, beginning with the 2020/2021 season. According to Olympique Lyonnais (2020), for doing shirts and training kits sponsorship, the company will continue to enjoy exclusive marketing rights until the end of the 2025 season. The company’s logo and slogan, fly better, will be printed on the team’s official t-shirts to be used during French matches and international competitions such as the European cup. Additionally, the company will also enjoy visible branding at their stadium, Groupama, and many other opportunities in the club’s hospitality and ticketing departments. The sponsored club is based in Lyon, and thus, the partnership was achieved as a part of Emirates Group’s marketing strategy to boost the sales of their daily direct flights between Lyon and Dubai. According to François and Bayle (2017), besides being one of France’s top football clubs, Olympique Lyonnais has a wide following internationally, meaning that the team would expose the sponsor to a broad audience.

The most significant sports sponsorship in football’s history was done between Arsenal and Emirates- awarding Arsenal’s stadium naming rights to Emirates from 2012 to 2028, and shirt sponsorship extension until the end of the 2023-2024 season. According to Emirates (2018), the partnership would continue to expand Arsenal’s influence globally since the sponsor has a global reach. Additionally, the sponsor would offer arsenal the opportunity to enjoy their award-winning planes during their pre-season flights. Further, Emirates would continue to enhance, intensify, and market its products and services through Arsenal. According to Emirate’s president, commenting on the partnership, arsenal would continue to be their partner in the future due to their influence worldwide and the shared values between Arsenal and their brand.

Sports Sponsors’ Choice of a Team

When selecting the best teams for sponsorships, most companies go for famous teams and those with a track record of achieving success. Considering the case of Emirates, the team has invested in sponsoring some of the best teams worldwide, thus surrounding itself with top achievers in the sports industry (Archer, 2020). The main reason sponsors go for the best teams is because of shared values and ambitions that must reflect both the company’s brand and the club’s performance, according to Bertschy et al. (2020). For instance, Emirates sponsors Arsenal, Ac Milan, Olympiacos of Greece, Real Madrid, S.L Benfica of Portugal, and associations such as the Asian Football Confederation and the Emirates FA cup. All these teams, associations, and competitions are top-achieving entities making the sponsor have an unmatched army of brand ambassadors worldwide. Due to globalization and technological advancement, information gets relayed faster thus making it easy for failing brands to easily taint their sponsor’s image hence the reason most sponsors avoid underperforming teams. Therefore, most football sponsors, including Emirates, are attracted to teams with a broad audience, consistency in achievements, and those whom they share values with.

Benefits of a Club

The main benefits that sponsored clubs to gain from sports sponsorship are brand collaboration and brand linking. The sporting committee gains access to direct financial benefits from its sponsor to plan, facilitate, and manage events (Firildak & Akin, 2020). In addition to that, they enjoy a connection that is often reflected in their employees. For instance, according to the research by Conrad (2017), “player’s employed by teams sponsored by Emirates commented on having a high self-esteem about working for their teams” (p.20). This was due to their association with the sponsor contributing to prestige and identification with the brand. Such a benefit is reflected in the company because happy employees certainly put more effort into supporting the brand (Schultz, 2018). Additionally, such teams may also enjoy the benefits of gifts such as paid travel to an overseas destination and access to free services.

Linking of Brands

For instance, Emirates can offer a free flight to Thailand for all Arsenal’s crew to a friendly match against a local team mainly for marketing purposes. With the massive advertisement of the event, the brand creates a long-lasting image in the viewer’s and locals’ minds, attracting more following for Arsenal FC and bringing in new customers for Emirate’s products and services (Holden, 2019). The team may get new sign-ins under Emirates sponsorship and other deals such as allowances and vouchers from Emirates for making the event a success. Therefore, this leads to a link between Arsenal and Fly Emirates as both acts as an ambassador for the other. Further, to win sponsorship partnerships, sponsors pay vast sums of money to the teams, channeled to the team’s development and rebranding (Rose et al., 2021). For instance, the five-year extension of the sponsorship contract between Arsenal FC and Emirates Airlines for 2023-2024 was worth $280 Million, according to Alkhaisi (2018). These benefits have made other rival clubs approach global companies for sponsorship, including the Abu Dhabi carrier, Etihad, which has been sponsoring Manchester City since 2009, as argued by Alkhaisi (2018). Among other benefits, sponsored clubs gain access to stable financial sources, and prestige associated with the other brand as both markets each other.

Impacts of Sports Sponsorship on Modem football

Forced Use of Sponsoring Partner

Sports sponsorship presents both positive and negative effects to the football world, as witnessed in the recent past. The interlinking of two brand names through sponsorship while increasing brand awareness increases the possibility of misuse of the sponsor-sponsee relationship (Groot & Ferwerda, 2017). Therefore, this creates opportunities for sponsors to be misused or forced to engage in promotional activities they are unwilling to undertake. For instance, Fly Emirates pays exceptionally high sums of money to sponsor FIFA, the world’s football body, and thus may have an influence over FIFA’s decision-making (Sugden & Tomlinson, 2017). The forced use of a sponsor partner can affect their productivity since they may feel like they are being used, hence leading to withdrawal from the contact. Therefore, this means that sponsored teams, and organizations, can access funds and other benefits from sponsors unlawfully or mismanage donations. In the long run, this amounts to wastage of resources on the sponsor’s side and violation of terms of agreement concerning partnerships that could land the sponsors and sponsored teams on the wrong side of the law.

Influence, Power, Manipulation, and Corruption

Sponsors have the capacity to manipulate and influence outcomes. Most f the companies involved are multibillion entities, and thus, channeling a small number of funds into deals that might benefit them can suspend their ethical considerations (Sima, 2019). Corruption, from the sponsor’s side, is another joint impact of sports sponsorship on modern football. According to Schönberner et al. (2020), many football sponsors are ready to manipulate sports managers if they stand to earn any benefits. For instance, according to Tak et al. (2018), many betting sites worldwide, that happen to be major sponsors of many football clubs, tend to interfere with the sport by manipulating players’ performance and match results. This interference has transformed the sport into a purely business-oriented industry with minimum concern for nurturing talent and growing clubs according to Visschers et al. (2019). Football sponsors are giant companies and thus, have all the financial capacities to make illegitimate arrangements with the teams they sponsor in exchange for perceived benefits such as extra payments and renewal of contracts. In 2014, Fly Emirates warned about withdrawing from being a part of the big companies that sponsor FIFA due to corruption allegations raised concerning the 2022 World Cup’s bidding process, according to Gibson (2019). Therefore, this shows how powerful sports sponsors are and how they can influence or manipulate the football industry.

Sales

Making sales are the major significance of the agreement between football clubs and sponsors such as the Fly Emirates. Each of the entities hopes to benefit from improved sales according to Gibson (2019). Sports sponsors have the potential to increase or lower the profitability of the football industry. Being major sponsors, their withdrawal from some football leagues and supporting teams has been leading to the collapse of abandoned partners (Szymanski & Weimar, 2019). Many teams around the globe operate on tight budgets, and thus, they survive on donations because they cannot meet their operational costs by themselves, according to Sartori et al. (2018). Therefore, the entry of sponsors ensures they are up and moving, and in case they are provided with cash to sign in excellent players, this can enhance their performance, thus making the club’s sales higher. There are instances where sponsor companies provide money for football clubs to purchase better-performing players. This, therefore, means that teams have to work hard to gain relevant support from their sponsors because it should be a win-win scenario and sponsors engage entities that they can benefit from. However, where sponsors mount pressure on their clubs, this can lead to adverse outcomes, affecting the players and the club’s image (Nuseir, 2020). Further, sponsors can enhance a club’s profitability by publicizing events and offering incentives that can lead to even better outcomes, especially where sponsors’ monetary support is present.

How Sports Sponsorship Can Be Used in Creating Brand Awareness

Sports sponsorship can be used as a tool to raise brand awareness through sharing information with customers. For instance, Fly Emirates can use flyers to raise awareness about their sponsored clubs during their flights. This increases the following these clubs have, thus making them even more popular. Additionally, sponsored teams are used in campaigns meant for popularizing their sponsors, thus widening the brand’s audience (Beverland et al., 2020). According to a study by Jashari (2018), sponsored clubs have often been crucial players in campaigning for their sponsors. In many cases, the sponsor-sponsee agreements entitle sponsors to such benefits. This means that underperforming teams cannot make good brand ambassadors, and hence, this is why most sponsors avoid supporting such teams. Therefore, both sponsors and sponsored teams can raise brand awareness for each other, by using their audiences to popularize their partner’s products and services.

In conclusion, as decades-long relationships such as those between the Fly Emirates and Arsenal Football Club, AcMilan FC, or Real Madrid FC continue to benefit both partners, sponsorship will always have a place in sport. In such partnerships, the sport will continue to be popular and brands willing to partake in such popularity will benefit from wide publicity. This is because both entities reap enormous benefits that make the relationships even a crucial component of some team’s existence. With sponsors offering financial support and getting marketing and exposure benefits in return, many sports sponsor companies will continue to renew contracts for well-performing teams worldwide. Corruption and misuse of sponsor-sponsee relationships are significant factors that affect sponsors such as Emirates in their bid to promote football sport worldwide while still gaining their brand exposure to more audiences. By receiving funding, sponsored clubs act as brand ambassadors for their sponsors by exposing their products and services to their audience.

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