Major sports brands now command revenues that would make a small country jealous and a fan base that any politician would dream of. It’s inevitable that such global growth attract sponsors, but how can it add value to a brand and aid its global growth?

“Many brands are still in the old mindset of what a sponsorship means”

Keld Strudahl, Founder of BrandActivators has previously negotiated and signed multiple sponsorship deals with Carlsberg Group including UEFA EURO, Champions League, Liverpool FC, IOC Olympics and Ryder Cup Golf Championships. As you would expect, he absolutely believes in the power of brand sponsorship – but argues many opportunities are often not leveraged properly.

(Image – back in the day – when Keld supped beers with UEFA-president Lennart Johansson to mark a new sponsorship deal.)

I see some brands locked in the old mindset, because many brands are still heavily relying on their media agencies to advise them. Many media agencies still seem reluctant to advise on sponsorship’s as an alternative media investment which could create strong value for their clients.

But the good news is that I think brands understand that the media exposure and activation has become more and more fragmented and brands are under more pressure to create awareness and differentiation. If managed and activated cleverly they can create this emotional and unique proposition. On the other hand I also see sports assets under a lot of pressure because innovation is still a discipline few assets understand and exercise. – Keld

Image – Carlsberg UK using it’s earlier England sponsorship as a driver of Shopper marketing engagement & retail activation.


Image – In sponsoring Liverpool Football Club, Carlsberg always had eyes on Asia, which represented a huge share of their group revenues. Commercialising the sponsorship in Asia was critical to justifying the sponsorship’s viability.


The ‘right’ assets – not just ‘any’ sponsorship is what matters

It’s as important to define the brand objectives as it is to select the sports asset in question. A brand seeking growth in Benelux might see a major deal with Ajax as a great association. However a betting company seeking Asian customers could be better off being a minor sponsor to a club in one of the top 5 leagues for the same investment, and gain wider reach with their target audience.

The Deloitte analysis shows how the Big Five leagues represent almost 60% of all revenue in the UEFA regions.

Meanwhile smaller leagues have a long way to go to bridge the yawning gap – the Dutch league for example is only around 8.5% the size of the English Premier League in revenue.

And this is just football – remember the literally hundreds of sports, tournaments and activities that can be appropriate for a brand looking to target a niche audience.

Think brand – think region

LaLiga might still be behind the English Premier League in the current revenue rankings, but it’s a more nuanced picture – and the gap is narrowing. A brand looking to invest is awareness and engagement in Latin America or parts of Asia might pay to look at LaLiga instead of an EPL club for example; something that Martin Pond – Commercial Director for LaLiga is keen to highlight:

The internationalisation of the league has allowed us to really connect with our millions of followers around the world in unique ways. This ‘glocal’ approach, includes the LaLiga Global Network, a collection of over 40 employees based in individual countries around the world to support growth in each market. Personally, it’s great to showcase our efforts on-the-ground through the Global Network and say: “This is what we are doing in your market(s) to bring LaLiga closer to sports fans. We would love for brands to join us on this journey but even if you decide not to at this time, we will still be here for many years to come” 

Image: GRAB a mobile payments firm signed a regional partnership with La Liga to grow awareness across the SE Asia region.

Think laterally to grow brand engagement

LaLiga is also looking to expand partners across Africa where the EPL has traditionally been dominant. As Martin adds:

Safaricom in Kenya is a great example of how we can work with local brands. Safaricom are already a market leader in Kenya and were looking to leverage LaLiga’s reputation for the development of young players in our league, to find the next Kenyan football superstar. A number of scouting programs will take place across Kenya during the course of the season, giving Safaricom the opportunity to create some fantastic engaging content, with the best eighteen players selected to travel to Spain and play against selected LaLiga club academies.

Brand sponsorship is not just for the mega-companies

There was a time that a select handful of FMCG, financial and tech/telco companies would dominate global sponsorship’s – but even the biggest assets are waking up to the need to offer medium sized companies routes to brand sponsorship engagement.

We must be creative and flexible in not only what we can offer to partners, but also work with these brands to help these assets come to life and ensure they achieve their objectives. B2C brands across many diverse sectors are now waking up to the exposure that sports properties like LaLiga can offer by tapping into the passion of sports fans and the benefits of unparalleled brand awareness and engagement.Martin Pond

WorldRemit is an example of a fast growing scale-up that has successfully managed to execute a sponsorship strategy with Arsenal FC. As a small but aggressively growing global business, they because the first ever money transfer company to tie-up a partnership with Arsenal in 2017. With more than 3 million customers, many of whom send money to Africa and Asia, this was a great fit for both brand and club.

Ask ‘WHY’ and set objectives before sponsoring!

It might seem obvious, but often ignored – actually what do you want for your brand?

Is the sponsorship relevant and how will you use it to drive consumer engagement aside from sticking your logo on a shirt or advertising board? I would always ask, ‘Is it relevant’ and additionally invest resources in the marketing organisation especially people to bring the sponsorship to life with content. Keld

I always advise to be prepared to invest at least 50% on top of your investment to truly activate the partnership. As a carry on from this, it’s incredibly important that both parties fully understand what each side is looking to achieve from the partnership from the beginning. Martin Pond

The author of this article, Martin Best is the Managing Director of the agency Full Reach, and has worked on numerous global campaigns with major brands such as Carlsberg, Tuborg, WorldRemit, Reebok and New Balance, and has been involved in brand sponsorship & activation for UEFA Euro 2008/12/16, FIFA World Cup 2010/14, Liverpool FC, Bolton Wanderers FC, Hajduk Split, the Russian Hockey League and International Rugby. Martin was previously Director of Marketing for Carlsberg in SE Europe, and Head of EMEA Marketing and Global Marketing Partnerships for WorldRemit.