This week, the Clydesdale Bank, sponsor of the Scottish Premier League since 2007, announced that it would be ending its deal after the 2012/2013 season. But how good a product will any new sponsor coming in be associated with and what will they get for their money? Stephen Halpin, managing director of Merchant Soul, a marketing, creative and sponsorship agency based in Glasgow and London, takes up the case.
Despite some of the recent headlines within the Scottish media suggesting that Scottish football is all but dead, there are many good reasons for brands to consider engaging commercially with Scotland’s premier sporting competition.
Clydesdale Bank’s decision not to extend their six year association with the Scottish Premier League (SPL) in May 2013 at the end of their agreed contract, will be construed as another major blow to Scottish football. Pages and pages of copy in the press; hours and hours of chat and comment across the internet and airwaves; numerous debates behind the closed doors of offices, bars and homes across the country are all devoted to “solving” Scotland’s footballing problems. Everyone has an opinion.
No one can argue that there are some real issues that need to be addressed…from grass roots right through to the highest level of our game. Thankfully this has now been recognised and a lot of work is being done to try to change and develop the game, the structures and the public offering for the better, which may be an excellent time for a new sponsor to get involved.
However, the thing that should not be lost in this discussion is that there continues to be an insatiable public appetite for football in Scotland…which to any business or brand looking to connect with Scotland’s masses, must surely put the SPL on their radar.
With 18 months to find a new partner, the SPL has time to re-package what it has to offer and search the market for new commercial partner(s) that not only provide much needed cash to support the game, but also to perhaps find partner(s) that will help play a central part in revitalising Scottish football.
So, here are five reasons why we believe brands might consider sponsoring the SPL:
Generating awareness in Scotland…and beyond.
Since 2007, at the end of Clydesdale Bank’s first year sponsoring the SPL, media values have doubled to £16.7m and live TV cumulative audiences are up 59% over the same period. The appetite to watch and consume SPL football is stronger than ever. The SPL celebrated its biggest ever live TV audience in April when 1.3 million people took in the “Old Firm” clash between Rangers and Celtic.
Association with something the whole country is passionate about.
The SPL really does punch above its weight when it comes to live in-stadium audiences. One in 63 people in Scotland attend SPL matches, representing the best ratio against population of any European league. People really do love their football in this country. England, by the way, stands at 1 in 147 people.
Truly national reach
With the SPL actively discussing the opportunity to merge with the Scottish Football League (SFL), any future sponsors may have the opportunity to ‘own’ professional football right across Scotland, reaching into every community and representing football and its supporters in its truest sense.
Engaging within local communities
All 12 clubs, operate community outreach programmes, guided by the SPL’s registered charitable trust. With a wide range of football, literacy, numeracy, support employment and arts programmes on-going for both children and adults, any potential sponsors have a wonderful opening in front of them to become genuinely engaged with 23,600 individuals every week, the length and breadth of the country. £8 million was spent on community based activities by SPL clubs in 2010.
Engaging innovatively…en mass
For digitally focused businesses there is a real opportunity to engage with supporters who have traditionally been ahead of the curve when it comes to social media over the last 15 years. With over 5.5 million supporters logging on to club websites and their associated social media channels, any future sponsors could engage potential customers in a personal and relevant manner…utilising their association with the SPL
Of course there are challenges. Many of these at the moment are global and economic and outwith the control of the SPL and their Clubs. However, some of these are much closer to home. Governing bodies, clubs and their owners, players, supporters and the media in Scotland all need to be open to and adapt to the changing market within which they are operating. Some are finding this easier than others, but assuming that this happens, the SPL will continue to be a property where real value can be created for the right brand(s) to be seen, be heard and be connected to one of Scotland’s biggest passions.