Now in its third year, Gary Linke’s (AKA The Missing Linke) list of favourite deals will provide an amusing antidote to the pessimists who believe that sponsorship may have had its day and the market will come crashing down!
Despite the tighter regulations on gambling brands, the failure of FTX in Crypto and the difficulties in demonstrating ROI beyond media value, deals do get done.
As with 2020 and 2021, The Top 10 does not cover “influencers” eg. Neymar and Mister Potato (EMW Global) or renewals and extensions eg. Standard Chartered and Liverpool FC. These are all great deals, but not for the Top 10.
Deals are listed in alphabetical order.
1) Booking.com and Manchester Pride - Not just ticking the box
This partnership works on so many levels and is not just a statement or a CSR initiative to display a logo and a website link.
Booking.com has opened a new UK HQ in Manchester for up to 3,000 staff and has supported Pride celebrations in Amsterdam which is the home of it’s global HQ. For those that like mission statements, Booking.com “make it easier for everyone to see the world”.
They run a “Travel Proud” programme with the aim of making travel a more welcoming and inclusive experience for LGBTQ+ people.
The partnership with Manchester Pride included 100 employees based in Manchester walking in the march for peace parade. This partnership is certainly about “walking the walk” and not just “talking the talk”.
2) Coca-Cola and Several Football Clubs – “The European Super League Bundle”
I always like a 'football brand' revisiting their former glories and dispelling the myth that sponsoring clubs causes their consumers to take their mouths elsewhere.
See a previous UP Yours blog post of mine.
In this case, from my perspective, Coca-Cola had 'moved on' after not extending their EFL naming rights deal in 2010 after six seasons.
According to feedback, whilst World Cups, Olympics, RWC and UEFA European Championship and pouring rights were retained, the new shiny thing was music and other Gen Y activities in the UK.
Examples were Dizzee Rascal and V Festival. Coca-Cola also sponsored the London Eye from 2015 to 2020.
Guessing that as it is harder to reach Gen Z through a fragmented music industry from a band/festival partnership, the answer to ROI and brand metrics is to partner with football clubs. Certainly, Octagon with Phil Carling’s view that football is delivering the eyeballs across all media, so 'box clever' and activate wisely and you will engage with more mouths?
So, from 2023 Coca-Cola have their own “Super League of Partnerships” consisting of Bayern, Juventus, Liverpool, PSG and Spurs to provide match-day and hospitality experiences, unique moments with players and limited- edition merchandise.
I am also sure the Cadbury pivot from also being a Premier League Partner showed the way with on-pack offers, club licensed packs and point of sale generating more shelf space. 3) GOAT and The PSG Sleeve - Sneakers brand finds a wider fitting
Premium rights owners are delighted when they unravel a new major partner that is under the radar and not on the “Salesforce” hit-list.
When this fashion collaboration in Paris with US based GOAT was announced I had to do some research. Sometimes the press release can be the best source: “GOAT is the leading and most trusted sneaker marketplace in the world, and has expanded to offer apparel and accessories from select emerging, contemporary and iconic brands." Not for the first time, the stylish club PSG have hit the fashion button with their award-winning collaborations with Nike and Air Jordan as well as the Verdy and Nana-Nana brands.
Their global following with the fashion creds of Paris and major global stars provides a strong retail marketing and licensing platform that is the envy of many looking to attract a younger audience.
In this case, the actual GOAT Lionel Messi certainly offers activation possibilities that most creatives would have no trouble generating strong content from, but does help when you can do this...
The PSG Chief Partnerships Officer, Marc Armstrong is known in London for his stints with the FA, NFL and NBA and from a brand perspective, PSG and GOAT is a smart move.
4) Go Puff and The O2 Arena - The Backstage pass
Food Delivery is my favourite category and I'm pleased that the new entrants are still “appy” to invest in sports and entertainment partnerships.
The O2 may not offer a regular TV audience for live events but attracts 8 million visitors a year and has first party data and access to tickets and experiences for their strong list of brand partners.
The idea of a food delivery partnership is to integrate Go Puff into the live event experience through 'click and collect' of food and beverages that helps increase the spend per head on the night.
Also, Go Puff provide food and beverages to the performing artists and roadies so potential content and stories might be available dependent on their tastes. Some music buffs may recall the “No brown M & M’s” contractual obligation from Van Halen which was in fact a shrewd move designed to ensure that concert organisers had read the staging agreement! With the intense competition in the football space, Go Puff have resisted the temptation to “Go Football” and have also have partnered with the Accor Arena in Paris.
With a younger core audience, music works well for people that want their groceries now and Go Puff have been able to attack London and Paris which are the two key cities for the more food delivery established players.
5) Gtech and the Brentford Stadium - Naming Rights “ Who are You”?
As the popular terrace chant goes of 'WhoRYa', Gtech hoovered up Brentford’s Community Stadium to become The Gtech, or the full title of The Gtech Community Stadium. With an extensive hit-list of brands to contact for the naming rights, one can guess that Gtech, who also produce lawnmowers, did not make the first “cut” as sales people “trimmed down” the runners and riders.
Nick Grey, founder and inventor of Grey Technology and a West Brom fan told the Athletic that this 10-year commitment was based on Brentford FC being an interesting club that do things differently.
With Gtech being a relatively niche UK brand the global reach of the Premier League enables the company to help increase overseas distribution plus the stadium has the added benefit of London Irish Rugby Union team playing there too.
Of course, some deals do need an extra twist and it was Peter Wright, who was recruited in-house to sell the naming rights that turned the lights on. Pete had been with the FA and after a stint in NZ had Nick’s number on speed dial.
With the Brentford community led credentials and a strong leadership team under CEO Jon “Reg" Varney, Nick has gone on record that his colleagues were very impressed with the way the club uses data and insights and the success of the owner too.
I do think that whilst this is not the most logical fit having two entities that respect and care for each other as long- term partners will develop into a fruitful marriage.
6) M & S and the Home Nations – Eat Well and Play Well
I know that Richard Ames- Head of Commercial Acquisitions” at the FA after lots of strategic work is especially proud of this purchase by a company who have historically ensured the England Team is “suited and booted” for the big tournaments.
Much more meets the eye here as not only has one of Britain’s most famous and successful retailers (we are a nation of shop-keepers) partnered with the Scottish, Welsh and the Irish FA but they have focused on food (and drink) which is a growth business for M & S who also have their Ocado partnership.
The launch and subsequent marketing campaigns have encouraged more healthy eating for M & S staff, suppliers and shoppers in the UK across 2,000 products using a seal of approval on-pack.
Activation is key in any partnership and with the success of the Lionesses, the M & S ambassador Ian Wright has also now become a big advocate of Women’s Football too.
With HFFS regulations beginning to impact on media advertising I feel more food and drink retailers and manufacturers will be considering sports partnerships, especially women’s sport to deliver awareness as well as position their products as healthy and part of a lifestyle that should also include physical activity
7) Robinsons and The Hundred – “New Balls Please”
The ECB, in the marketing plan that underpinned The Hundred stated that the new format would lead to new brands investing in cricket. CSM have done a great job and despite covid and a very full cricket calendar of international and T20 have delivered another established and loved fmcg brand in the shape of a bottle of Robinsons.
The 8 team sponsors enable KP Snacks to utilise their crisp portfolio and increases awareness for some brands that have relatively smaller budgets e.g. Tyrells, Pom Bear and Popchips to receive coverage on free to air and SKY as well as come together for on-trade and off-trade marketing.
Robinsons also offer a great portfolio of soft drinks and whilst Robinsons Barley Water seemed to have had a marriage with the All England Club during Wimbledon fortnight to a global audience the Hundred offers coverage in England and Wales and key cricket markets. Robinsons can utilise the partnership to host competition winners and their trade customers in and around 8 key cities.
That said, Wimbledon is an iconic tournament and I am sure some retail customers have great memories of watching Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray on Centre Court as well as the numerous winners of the Ladies Singles over the last 20 years.
8) Starling Bank and Southampton FC Women - Extra Interest to go it alone
After their national sponsorship of the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022, Starling showed their commitment to women’s football partnering with a Premier League women’s team as a stand-alone property to become their principle partners.
Southampton’s women’s team are now full-time and play in the FA Women’s Championship following back-to-back promotions and have seen a 120% increase in season ticket sales. They have shown leadership to grow the women’s game and all games are played at St Mary’s Stadium (capacity of over 32,000).
Starling are clearly a “challenger bank” in terms of technology and also have a strong CSR positioning and their ambassador is Jill Scott MBE, former Lioness and recent I'm a Celebrity Winner.
Sarah Batters, Director of Marketing and Partnerships at Southampton FC is a leading advocate for more women being employed in the sports business community. . 9) Spotify and Barcelona – Music and Football Set Up Camp
A lot has been written on this one as a first of its kind, so I hope to provide my own twist. Only global brands “move the needle”, according to someone at Spotify’s US office, as they look to acquire more subscribers through sport.
Barca is certainly that, and the added asset of the rebranded 'Spotify Camp Nou' along with the shirt, training shirts and audio partnership across men’s and women’s teams is a big download.
Spotify’s Chief Freemium Business Officer, Alex Norstrom said it is about “connecting fans with artists of every kind”. He added “as we look to grow the Spotify brand worldwide, there are few partners that have the scale and global reach”
The financial challenges to Barcelona in terms of debt are well documented and this iconic club have mortgaged their future by selling their future broadcast rights for the next 25 years! Despite an exit from the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, Barca sit top of La Liga.
Whilst Spotify might be happy with the recent Barcelona signings, it is all quiet at the Spotify Nou Camp with Coldplay and Harry Styles playing several dates at the Olympic Stadium, also in Barcelona, next summer.
One to watch - I am an advocate of “form is temporary and class is permanent” . 10) Uber Eats and YCCC - A slow burner to bring the restaurants to the crease
You’ve had to wait to number 10 for me to feature one of my own “home-made” deals as I returned to Leeds which is where I lived for my school days (I am a Mancunian by birth). The initial intro took place before some well-documented serious issues at Yorkshire Cricket Club that led to a government enquiry and subsequent reforms.
Tom Webster reconnected with the Yorkshire Business unit of Uber Eats and in cricket terms a partnership was developed based on clear ROI objectives of helping Uber Eats encourage restaurants to sign up exclusively to the Uber Eats app/marketplace.
Sometimes, as an introducer to deals it is best to let nature take its course between the rights owner and the brand. Keep the scoreboard moving and not look to declare in cricket terms.
For those that follow me, 2022 has been a series of five and six figure deals with collaborations featuring a bowling line up of Michael Rocha Keys, Ian Tussie, Nat Coombs, Robin Shelley in a balanced attack taking the wickets of Draft Kings, Footium, Smash Casino and Utilita which shows collaboration is working for me.
Onto 2023 with a good pipeline and best of seasonal wishes to everyone in the partnership game and especially all those who follow Unofficial Partner!
Gary Linke is the Owner of The Missing Linke