The Premier League has authorised sponsorship branding on the shirt sleeves of its club's kits in a move sponsorship experts claim could see a greater influx of betting companies in the game.
Mirroring the commercial ploy used in other European Leagues- such as La Liga where the likes of Barcelona have Beko on the arm of their shirts - the English top flight will now allow clubs to sell the rights to their left shirt sleeve from the start of the 2017/18 season onwards.
The value of the space is estimated to be worth around 20% of the front-of-shirt branding and given the global reach of the Premier League the potential exposure is likely to prove attractive - for certain brands.
“This type of inventory is primarily predicated around brand exposure because it’s on shirt inventory so the type of companies we can expect to see going for this are the ones who place a value on brand exposure rather than those who place more value on marketing rights as such,” explained Joel Seymour-Hyde, senior vice president at Octagon.
Shirt sponsorships by large multinational brands such as Chevrolet, Emirates and insurance companies like AIA and Standard Chartered are concentrated among the top six clubs and are heavily based around various marketing activations through access to star players.
But outside of the league's top six clubs, 10 out of the remaining 14 have a betting firm as their main sponsor. The reason for this, said Seymour-Hyde, is because “they still see significant value in the efficiency of the brand exposure which that platform reaches”.
Despite the international popularity of the Premier League, its lower-tier clubs struggle to attract the big global brands like Etihad, which would want a partner like Manchester City that can offer the kind of reach to fuel their own global ambitions.
The business models of betting companies on the other hand means that brand exposure alone is enough to tip the balance in their favour. Unlike Emirates, these brands don’t need to work to convince consumers to consider making a purchase, they can reach football fans through their mobiles and offer them a service tied directly to the sport.
Sporting Group International has reportedly already brokered a deal with eight clubs in the league to sell the rights for their kit's sleeve to a yet to be named sponsor. Multi-club deals, or the collective selling of imagery, is likely to be how the new shirt sponsorship opportunity is used.
This approach in itself is unlikely to involve a comprehensive activation plan because of the scale across multiple properties.
The revenue from the Premier League’s broadcast deals far exceeds that from clubs’ commercial partners and so there has been less motivation for the mid to lower-tier clubs to try and position themselves as marketing platforms in the way they might have done in the past before Sky and BT showered them in millions of pounds. With this in mind, the sleeve sponsorship offers football bosses an easy additional revenue stream.
Even if a Manchester United or Arsenal had the contractual freedom to pursue a deal around the shirt sleeve it is unlikely that they would be willing to jeopardise the exclusivity and subsequent value of their shirt sponsorships.
Seymour-Hyde points out that clubs, which have the likes of a Chevrolet or Emirates on their shirt, would “probably not” want a betting company to be on the sleeve and expalined that amongst the big clubs, “it’s not necessarily even likely that they will want to sell the space”.
“Where you might see them use it is with chosen charity partners which would be a more meaningful use of the opportunity and a good PR angel to take”.