Celtic are reportedly close to agreeing terms with Dafabet to make the Asian betting firm their new shirt sponsor in what could be just the right move to help the club return to competitive ways in Europe.
If the deal goes ahead it could be the biggest sponsorship deal in Scottish football and will see the domestic champions bid farewell to their current sponsor Magners after its three year deal expires at the end of the season.
Celtic already have a partnership with Dafabet after the two agreed terms last year to make it the club’s official international betting partner. The gambling business has a growing portfolio in football with its current shirt sponsorships with Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers.
Having the Philippines-based company as a shirt sponsor however marks a shift in Celtic’s commercial strategy. Until now the club’s shirt sponsors have been either UK-based or brands with a significant presence in the UK.
Turning to Asia isn’t a risky move though, it’s a necessary one. Celtic have a strong global fan base and if the club is to make itself competitive in Europe and return to the UEFA Champions League then it needs to leverage its brand heritage by tapping into revenue streams from emerging football markets like many other top European clubs are doing.
Nigel Currie, sponsorship and PR consultant at NC Partnership pointed out that the competition to attract the “fast growing Asian/African and North American football fans is intense".
“If Celtic let other clubs get too far ahead of them commercially, it will become even harder to compete,” says Currie.
“Celtic is already at a big disadvantage (significantly less TV revenue than other major clubs in Europe) so it has to maximise its earnings from other sources and sponsorship is the clubs next best option.”
There’s no question that many of the English Premier League clubs have the upper hand on Celtic thanks to the broadcast deals but as Pitch’s business development director, Paul McCormick, points out “the club has millions of fans across the globe through its Irish heritage".
McCormick said that the Glasgow club’s UK fanbase is “comparative to a leading Premier League team but its income from broadcast rights and sponsorships is drastically lower".
“The club needs lucrative sponsorships and quickly. The SPFL lacks the financial power of the Premier League and Celtic’s failure to reach the Champions’ League group-stages will have been costly on the balance sheet.”
Bringing Dafabet onboard seems to be a step in the right direction for the 1967 European champions and will be helped by the SPFL’s broadcast agreement with Chinese sports platform Letv to show Scottish Premier League games in Asia. Taken together the moves could help increase the club’s profile to a mass Asia audience and may help reduce the gap between them and the might of the English Premier League.