Over the 18 years that Tennent’s was the lead sponsor of the Scottish Cup, it became synonymous with the football competition, so much so that for the year following its move to become the sponsor of the Scottish national football team, media pundits and punters alike continued to refer to the competition as the Tennent’s Scottish Cup.
Perhaps that spectre was one of the main reasons that no sponsor could be found to head up last year’s competition, perhaps it was the reported £1.25million per year asking price which is what Tennent’s is thought to have paid in its final years.
Last year, in order to keep the competition going, the Scottish Football Association had to act as the tournament’s main sponsors having failed to find a successor. All participating 82 teams were paid as if a sponsor was in place – money that came directly from the SFA’s coffers – which, no doubt, played its part in the hike in prices to watch the national team.
The SFA has come under fire from the media for the lack of a sponsor, but has clearly been working hard to find a brand before the first round is drawn in September.
Speculation that the SFA had been close to agreeing a deal with a major Scottish energy firm before the deal collapsed is confirmed by the man leading the search, David Kells, managing director of Scotland’s national stadium and home to the SFA, Hampden Park.
“We’ve been talking to a number of companies who are showing an interest but it’s a road we’ve been down over a number of occasions over the last year.
“We’ve already been very close to attracting a sponsor to the cup, but due to various trading conditions or changes both in management and in the structure of these companies, the deal has been unable to be reached,” begins Kells when asked about the difficulties he has faced in finding a new sponsor.
He agrees that the spectre of Tennent’s may have worked as a deterrent but also feels that the success the lager brand has enjoyed through its association with the competition is testament to just how powerful a proposition it can be “for the right company.”
With Tennent’s working alongside the national team, Clydesdale Bank sponsoring the Scottish Premier League and Irn-Bru having just completed its first year as headline sponsor of the Scottish Football League, the range of iconic Scottish brands left are limited, possibly opening the door to a UK-wide or global brand entering the thoughts of the commercial team.
Kells says that the value of exposure the cup can deliver its main sponsor has been valued at around £1.8m, due to the coverage received from newspapers, radio, television – with both live matches and highlights being screened – and now online, through both official platforms and through chat rooms and forums.
“It really depends how a sponsor wishes to use the sponsorship,” explains Kells, “but as part of the package there’s also hospitality arrangements at the games and when it comes to semi-finals and finals there is opportunity for organisations to run competitions and internal staff incentives.
“Being a partner of the SFA is key because we are coming into the World Cup qualifying campaign and while Tennent’s is the team sponsor, access to facilities for International matches are available.”
When asked how confident he is that a sponsor will be in place by kick off for the first round games on 27 September, Kells is not keen to nail his colours to the mast in case of scoring an own goal.
“We’ve been close before and it hasn’t happened,” he says “but there’s a good chance it will happen. We’re in talks with a few companies at the moment and we want to progress that because the draw for the first round is approaching fast.
“There isn’t a fantastic amount of time but we are confident because it is such a fantastic property to have ownership of.”
He continues: “It is a competition that touches all areas of Scotland and if an organisation wants to communicate a message, develop a new brand or consolidate a brand name then the Cup gives that opportunity to do so.” It’s been a time of prosperity for Scottish football in the last couple of years, and it seems only a matter of time before the Scottish Cup does indeed find a new brand to support it.
But what if the worst comes to the worst? What if the Scottish Cup fails to find a sponsor for a second year running?
Well, Kells remains bullish, refusing to accept such an outcome as an option. “We are confident a satisfactory deal will be completed,” he concludes, making it very clear that that is the only option he will accept.