Last week CalvinAyre.com covered the 5th annual Betting on Football (BOF) Conference, an event SBC originally designed to bring together sports betting industry professionals and football club marketing reps to help foster new relationships. The core focus of the first BOF was to highlight the value in football club sponsorships for online sports betting brands and how to maximize value for both parties.
As time has moved on, the focus of BOF has grown into a much wider scope, yet the unparalleled value of football club sponsorships and the regulatory challenges that come along with them are still as relevant as ever.
“Sponsorship is one of the key partnerships between football and the gambling industry, yet its fraught with controversy mainly fueled by media hysteria”, Andrew McCarron of SBC told CalvinAyre.com.
“This is why it’s important to have sensible conversations about the role that betting sponsorship plays and how it can be done to maximize the value for both parties in a way which is responsible, sustainable and acceptable to wider society. These discussions place a greater emphasis on the partnership element of these deals, rather than just a straightforward advertising transaction”, he added.
With the decision on PASPA coming any day now, perhaps the Americans will finally embrace healthy partnerships between professional sports teams and betting companies, partnerships that have been a staple in the established European markets for years.
One of the sessions at the 2018 BOF “Sponsorship Forum” focused on the value of regional partnerships and featured the Industry Eye’s Ed Pownall, also the Global Head of PR for Bodog Brand.
Its no secret the Bodogbrand has been involved with football club sponsorships of all different shapes and sizes, for example, world-famous English teams such as Fulham FC, Arsenal and West Brom, a seven-year and running partnership with the regional Scottish team Ayr United and a recently announced partnership with the Copa do Brazil.
The Bodog brand has also found value in engaging with sponsorships of teams and tournaments outside of football, such as darts, poker, and others.
Pownall has been representing the Bodog brand for close to ten years now and was involved with each sponsorship listed above, clearly putting him in a position to be able to evaluate the pros and cons of sponsoring bigger clubs.
“The ‘pro’ is very simple – these clubs have a huge international reach and also any partnership with them gives the company involved a huge ‘trust stamp’ they can use not least on the most basic level that it shows you have enough money to do this kind of deal which means customers know you can pay out if they win big. This is very important for trust in emerging economies like Brazil”, Pownall shared with CalvinAyre.com.
“The ‘Con’ is that these clubs have a lot of different partners and you are a tiny fish in a very big pond so you can get over-looked and treated fairly poorly. Small sponsors are a nice cheque for the club but they often want to spend as little resource on servicing that client as possible”, he added.
When it comes to the smaller and more regional clubs, according to Pownall, “The ‘pro’ is the sponsor is desired and they want to forge a long-term partnership so are willing to go the extra mile to help. The ‘con’ is the obvious one of less reach and less ‘wow’ factor’”.
I’ve had first-hand experience with the Bodog brand in working with a larger club (Arsenal) and a more regional club (Ayr United) from a filming perspective and I can confirm it was like night and day between the two. The rules and regulations for filming with Arsenal players were precise and timed to the second, with Ayr United however, the players would invite you into their home if you let them.
“I would argue we made more noise with Ayr than we did with Arsenal! This is not a criticism of Arsenal per se but having a license to do more and be less restricted with Ayr meant we could be more ‘us’ – big clubs are more nervous about anything even vaguely controversial”, Pownall shared.
More recently, the Bodog brand has made a move into the coveted Brazilian market and have engaged in a “triangular” sponsorship plan to boost their brand awareness in the region, a strategic mixture of sorts.
“So we have our ‘marquee’ sponsorship (the Copa do Brazil, like the FA Cup here), then our tangible-on-ground-you-can-touch-us sponsorship (H2 Poker Club in Sao Paulo) and our fun grass-roots style sponsorship (Corinthian Steamrollers)”, explained Pownall.
“They all serve different purposes: Copa do Brazil give us the trust stamp, the H2 Poker Club shows clients we don’t just exist in the ether and the Steamrollers gives us that fun and flexible option like Ayr United does”, he added.
With such a wealth of experience under his belt, I asked Pownall for any best practices he could share in regards to sponsorships for the purpose of targeting emerging markets such as Asia or Brazil.
“Try and use the sponsorship to engage with fan forums but be aware that some clubs don’t want you to engage with unofficial fan forums so having a sponsorship can in fact hinder rather than help your progress in that area. Insane, huh!?”, he said.
When asked for best practices in how to justify hefty sponsorship costs to a results-oriented CFO, his humorous(yet genuine!) response was, “Still learning that one!”…