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Brand Strategy Football Sports Marketing

Premier League’s betting brand ban will spark a shirt-front sponsorship scramble

By Henry Chappell, Founder and CEO

April 14, 2023 | 6 min read

Henry Chappell, founder and CEO of Pitch Marketing Group, reflects on the coming restrictions in the Premier League and what it means for sponsors.

Everton announces shirt sponsor

/ Everton.com

The Premier League has now effectively banned gambling companies from appearing on the front of club shirts from summer 2026. It’s the least surprising piece of football business news of the year – up there with the Glazers dragging out the sale process of Manchester United for as long as possible.

The Premier League has finally done it, but considering the mounting government pressure on both the league and the gambling sector, the only surprise about it is that it has taken this long.

But when you consider that 40% of Premier League clubs this season still have a smorgasbord of ugly betting companies emblazoned across their fronts, and Aston Villa have only just signed a lucrative new shirt sponsorship deal with another new betting company that most people had never heard of for a reported fee that’s twice what outgoing sponsor Cazoo has been paying, it’s understandable that the clubs outside of the big six didn’t want to give up on this revenue. Unless they absolutely had to. Especially in a tough sponsorship market, where there isn’t exactly a queue of new brands lining up to take their place.

But from the club’s point of view, the continued revenue growth derived from their international TV rights outweighs the potential loss of revenue this will incur, and the fact they can still have betting companies on their sleeves and LED boards will mean the drop in revenue from the gambling sector can be minimized.

And for the betting companies, they can still partner with Premier League clubs in a meaningful way, with guaranteed screen time and the opportunity to invest more in the activation of partnerships with branded content and other activities.

What will be interesting to see, though, is how the clubs go about replacing betting companies with brands from different categories, at a time when up to half the clubs could all be looking for new shirt sponsors at the same time. And perhaps more when you consider that both TeamViewer’s partnership with Manchester United and Three’s deal with Chelsea are coming to an end imminently – the gambling ban could spark a sponsorship scramble.

However, with a few exceptions, the Premier League shirt sponsorship market has not held appeal to leading global brands. If you are an established brand, you just don’t need the exposure.

So, the hope for Premier League clubs is in emerging new categories. Over the past few years, the football sponsorship market has seen growth from new categories such as the online car market, crypto companies and trading platforms. But Cazoo is retreating from its Aston Villa deal and there has already been much speculation that the crypto sponsorship bubble has burst.

And with tough macro-economic conditions for the foreseeable, it looks set to be a challenging few years for Premier League clubs’ commercial departments.

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We’ve already seen newly promoted Nottingham Forest play the first 15 matches of this season without a shirt sponsor before pivoting to a charity partnership, gifting the opportunity to UNHCR, the official charity of the United Nations’ Refugee Agency. This follows in the footsteps of the Championship’s Derby County, which took the proactive step before the season started of signing a season-long shirt sponsorship with the NSPCC, which has been very effective on a local level for the UK’s leading children’s charity.

So, if the big winner of the Premier League’s shirt sponsorship betting ban is the charitable sector, then maybe the ’beautiful game’ won’t be quite as ugly as it once was.

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