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My top 10 partnership deals in 2020

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

With the end of 2020 just days away, we ask Gary Linke of The Missing Linke to list his favourite new brand partnerships of the year and shed some light on these deals in what has been a challenging year.

At Gary’s insistence, the deals are listed in alphabetical order as he does not wish to judge the best amongst his Top 10 and lose his agency friends.

NB The “Top 10” does not include influencers (like Vinny Jones and Brut) or licensing tie-ups such as BVB Dortmund and Sponge Bob Squarepants; or renewals, extensions or a change in recent strategy e.g. Cadbury going from a PL partnership to a multiple club model.

So, in alphabetical order......

1) Cazoo – Disrupting the used car market

A very clever person who knows about these things said to me in February that for

anyone to make a dent in the likes of Autotrader and Webuyanycar, you have to

spend £70m to £80m per annum. Autotrader has about 75% of search when a

customer wishes to buy and sell their vehicle.

So, we have witnessed a multi-million shopping spree of several properties that

seems to be still ongoing - Everton, then Villa, then the Rugby League World Cup

and then The Hundred all at top tier.

I loved the speed of it and if 2019 was the year of Deliveroo, 2020 was the year of Cazoo

in terms of multi-partnership acquisitions. For all you sales people out there just spot the next company with “oo” at the end of their name and entrepreneurs like William Shu and Alex Chesterton that can raise millions and you won’t go far wrong. Hub Caps off for Adrian Wright, founder of “Rapid Charge” and Kevin Vandrau MD of CSM.

2) Co-op Live - It’s a Manchester thing

This new venue, located next to the Etihad Stadium, won’t even be ready until 2023! We are told the UK is well behind the US in naming rights and for every First Direct, The O2, Amex etc there are some fabulous stadiums in Stratford, Tottenham, Brentford and SWI9 without a name.

The Co-op have partnered with Glastonbury, Live Nation and other music events with their pop-up shops and clearly wished to appeal to the younger generation having been around since 1844.

What also attracted them (besides the location) was that the arena will be a sustainable and socially responsible venue, creating zero waste, low emissions and ​will generate £1m a year for community causes. I reckon Marcus Rashford may take a box there, in that case. Oak View Group, “the new AEG” own the venue and did the selling and I believe Alasdair Fowle and Amanda Jennings (AJ) at the Co-op played an integral part in the sign off. See you in 2023 for the Oasis reunion!

3) Dream11 and the IPL – Keeping in the game

I did not know about Dream11 who run fantasy sports games in India until the Cricket World Cup in 2019 brought them to my attention. This is big business and the IPL is a big thing but I must admit that Dream11 sponsoring the IPL was a bit of a “googly” to the sponsorship industry. Keep your eye on them as they have over 75m users across six sports - cricket, football, kabaddi, basketball, hockey and volleyball and are India’s biggest multi-sport aggregator platform according to their deck.

4) Expedia and Liverpool FC - PL Champions land on their feet

When you have to go to market to replace a sleeve partner and have the Champions League Trophy and Premier League Trophy in your Boardroom you would be right to feel confident. The sales office is also not for the faint hearted when the clock starts ticking and the season starts. I am sure many deals went soft due to Covid 19 and the travel industry - airlines, hotels, tourism authorities and holiday companies were taken off everyone’s hit list. However, in the world of premium rights and forward-thinking rights owners, like Liverpool FC, and consultants like Octagon who are across the Champions League, the Euros and The FIFA World Cup, commercial sense can prevail.

With brands tripping over themselves to renew UCL partnerships for the next cycle and a queue of new brands looking at entering the UCL and outbidding incumbents to be in 'The eight', Expedia have ensured that their brand will remain on the top table and won’t be knocked off their perch. So when the good times are back, Expedia and Hotels.Com (owned by Expedia) will have one of leading sports clubs in the world to provide a global platform for their aggregation model.

5) Nationwide and The Home Nations- Nationwide is Football and Football is Nationwide

After 10 years my old friends, Nationwide returned to partnering with the England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland FA's for the next 3 seasons.

In the "golden generation" at the turn of the century, Nationwide built a Tier 1 portfolio of football properties that included the Nationwide Football League, The Nationwide Conference and all 4 Home Nations. My first sports role was managing that relationship for the EFL which was a traditional sponsorship of its day and delivered plenty of brand exposure over 8 seasons.

So, in the "new" purpose built world for brands, Nationwide's re-entry is all about improving respect in the UK communities, especially around grassroots football. Each home nation has a programme that Nationwide will support over the next 3 years- The FA's "Respect" campaign, FAI's "Back In The Game", SFA's "Positive Play" and the FAW "Fair Play Code".

Perhaps we will see more comebacks for the new era as some established brands with latent awareness from big UK sponsorships get back into discussions?

6) Papa John’s – Going large with three sides

It all started with a Super League special which was a natural with all those live TV games on SKY and players who could demolish an Extra Large after putting their bodies on the line in the run up to The Grand Final. Having cameras in the dressing rooms provides great product placement. Then in seven days that shook the Pizza/Food Delivery world, Papa John’s sponsored the EFL Trophy and then became a Partner of the SPFL across all four divisions and took over the popular score prediction game. The headline “SPFL Links Up with Papa Johns” perhaps made people think I was involved? However, I was magnanimous and contacted Steve Maddren to congratulate him. Steve’s agency GV6 then promptly 'collaborated' with Sport Collective so he could share a Papa John’s at the next Board Meeting, once we’re out of Tier 3.

7) Three and Chelsea FC - The two challengers are on a mission

Love this one. Three were sniffing around football. They wished to be more top of mind and also to be considered as one of the best networks in the UK. Chelsea had their shirt up for grabs after five years with Yokohama. It was announced in January 2020 that Yokohama would remain as global tyre partner before anyone was talking about Covid 19 and CSM were tasked with finding a new sponsor. Three appeared on the Chelsea shirt on July 1st even though it was still the 2019-20 season and benefitted from new shirt launches and qualification for the Champions League; and reached The FA Cup Final. It was a bitesize chunk in terms of gigabites and people’s memory capacity was short. Again, people were speculating that a “fire sale” was imminent but Chelsea did very well out of the deal. Three now have a great UK property after their success in Ireland. Chelsea have made a great start to the season with a young side which suits the Three demographic.

8) Uber and The Thames Clipper - When the boat comes in

AEG were running the naming rights sale for the Catamarans that take workers and tourists up and down the Thames where you see the great monuments of London. ​It is a great way to travel, and environmentally friendly. As people know, Uber were defending their license in London and also had global challenges with the pandemic and the gig economy. When it was announced, it made perfect sense. Uber is about moving people, and the Thames Clipper is part of London’s answer to traffic and pollution in the Big City. I daresay that for Uber it was like parking your tanks on the lawn, day in and day out in one of the best cities in the world. For the sales team at AEG, headed by Paul Samuels, the maestro behind The O2 deal of the 21st century this was a major coup as AEG’s venues began to close around the world.

9) Vodafone and The British Lions – The Sea of Red

Big Lions fan and not much around that unites generations of Rugby Fans across five countries to play the World Champions in their own back yard. The series commercial rights were brought together by the Lions and the Springboks with CSM managing the partnership programme. As one of Voda’s lead agencies, Fuse put together the rationale and with a year to go to the actual tour, the deal was announced and the iconic shirt was launched at the end of October.

10) Weetabix and the FA - Girl Power

Been a tough year for women’s sport after recent growth and very proud to have had some involvement in this one. Working with Pete Davis, the owner of on a partnership brief, the FA’s response for Weetabix to become the lead partner of the Wildcats girls football programme coupled with access to the Men’s and Women’s England teams was a great opportunity.

When a big grocery TV-advertised brand invests in sports partnerships, rights owners are delighted as it is sometimes the case that FMCG brands prefer the security of TVR and digital advertising that can be measured without emotion. On this occasion, with a positioning of “Eat Well, Live Well and Play Well” the FA and Weetabix will give more girls the opportunity to play football which will benefit society. So, raise your spoon to Weetabix who will reap the benefits of a golden period when England will be competing in three major tournaments in 18 months from June 2021 which will include acting as hosts for the Women’s Euros in the Summer of 2022.

Gary Linke has delivered and/or renewed over 40 properties in his 20 years at the sharp end of the sports business, from naming rights, event and team partnerships and licensing programmes. You can contact him via

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