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My Top 10 Partnership Deals 2023

Updated: Dec 13, 2023



Now in its 4th year, Gary Linke’s, AKA The Missing Linke’s list of his favourite deals across the year is

becoming more established than some partnerships! Some of the deals that he has covered previously have not been renewed especially within those newer big spending categories that have emerged in this period e.g. Food Delivery, Crypto, Web 3 and buying cars online.


That said, no slowing down with B2B partnerships. Whilst Man United will be leaving Team Viewer in their rear-view mirror they have upgraded their current partner, Qualcomm. This new deal will see their Snapdragon brand displayed on their Adidas shirts for next season and hopefully for a more extensive stay as Adidas have renewed until at least 2033 for a reported £900m.


Gary’s Top 10 does not cover 'influencers' e,g. Ronaldo and Binance (currently under a law suit)

and renewals and extensions e.g. SKY Bet and Carabao have once again, extended their respective

naming rights deals with the EFL Championships/Play-Offs and the EFL Cup.


The post aims to bring attention to the new partnerships that create interest based on the fit and thinking behind the joining of organisations together.


Deals are listed in alphabetical order.


1) Adobe and the Women’s FA Cup - From US Soccer into English Football as the women’s game continues to grow at pace



Adobe and the Women’s FA Cup partnership


Adobe looked an obvious candidate for the FA in hindsight. They became the “Official Creativity Partner” for the United States National Women’s Soccer League in a multi-year partnership that was announced in Jan 2023 so a leap across the pond was obvious.


That said, clearly a lot of thought went into developing the sponsorship toolkit for a brand that most people take for granted when they open their PDFs. When you read deal press releases sometimes you break out with a wry smile as a brand and rights owner come together to communicate how their partnership will positively impact the sport or your favourite team.


In this case, I genuinely think their joint mission to help women’s football clubs (the FA Cup involves clubs throughout the pyramid) and to assist players, coaches and commercial staff to use Adobe's vast range of desktop and mobile products is well intended. Certainly, the people working in women’s football will welcome new partners that provide creative tools that can help them do their jobs better and help players develop their future careers should they go into commerce.


2) Aviva, Manchester City Council and Factory International - The new Aviva Studios has shades of one of the best venue naming rights deals ever struck.


Aviva, Manchester City Council and Factory International  partnership

Aviva, Manchester City Council and Factory International - The new Aviva Studios has shades of one of the best venue naming rights deals ever struck.


Since their rebranding in 2009, Aviva had utilised sponsorship for big national sports properties e.g. UK Athletics, Tour of Britain and Premiership Rugby and had also been in football with Norwich City (A nod to Norwich Union).


Aviva has a comprehensive financial product portfolio and also offering car & home insurance for the masses. It has been evaluating the sponsorship marketplace to find the ideal opportunity to return to the sponsorship marketplace, that would provide engagement opportunities for customers, clients and staff.


Something new was required and this brave and costly development in Manchester, without involving City or United, with competition from the new Co-op Live and the AO Arena showed that a different type of opportunity within naming rights venues can appeal to the right company at the right time in their journey. This venue led approach clearly aligns strategically with Aviva’s long term and high recognisable sponsorship Aviva Stadium in Dublin.


So, Manchester’s landmark new arts and culture venue “Factory International” becomes “ Aviva Studios”. This does have similar traits to the “Dome” becoming “The O2”. The venue was not open after several delays and major budget issues and had critics questioning the costs to the tax payer.

The clear opportunity is for Aviva is to be “the” brand that will be associated with the delivery of event shows, festivals and exhibitions throughout the year in a vibrant northern city. Furthermore, Aviva will work closely with Factory International and Manchester City Council on a number of initiatives linked to long-term sustainability and community impact. This includes being the Principal Partner of the Factory Academy, Factory International’s award-winning skills training programme which provides opportunities for careers in Manchester’s ever-growing creative industries.


3) Dacia and The Scouts - It’s certainly not about “badging”.


Dacia and The Scouts partnership

This one did catch my eye as bucking a trend for motor vehicle companies in sports. Dacia is part of Renault Group, and their best value proposition has appealed to the UK market for ten years. They make great cars, including the Dacia Duster which is classed as a sports utility vehicle (SUV), perfect for those drivers and families that are full of adventure but also have to do the school run!

 

Dacia’s first taste of a partnership was more than five years ago with the Rugby League across both the Engand Team and the Super League delivering awareness that enabled them to activate via some of their Retailers and embrace a family friendly sport.

 

As people know, sport can be cluttered with car brands looking for exposure for their new models. although other manufacturers have recently pulled out of some high-profile partnerships e.g Ford and Nissan both left the Champions League to more local strategic deals, although Kia have continued to invest with the FIFA programmes and have their Kia Oval which is near their headquarters.

 

I am guessing that Dacia also looked at several propositions? Perhaps their PR and Marketing departments came to the conclusion that as a challenger, disruptive brand, that they preferred a partner that was untypical, yet provided large scale engagement with families throughout the UK on a weekly basis through the Scouts.

 

What is lacking in media exposure from a partnership with a national audience can easily be found elsewhere through traditional and digital media buying. This deal is with the UK’s largest youth movement with a membership of over 400,000 young people and 100,000 adult volunteers has “purpose” written all over it.

 

Dacia genuinely wishes to make a difference. They will be launching badges based on adventure, which is what Dacia is all about, as they are known as vehicles for going off the beaten track just as they have done with this partnership.


4) Kelloggs and the EFL and the EFL Trust - 72 variety packs at the heart of their community

Kelloggs and the EFL and the EFL Trust

The EFL (formerly known as The Football League) provides scale as well as the unscripted drama and big audiences and is a national institution. However, the roles of the 72 clubs and the EFL in delivering community engagement can sometimes be taken for granted. To many people their local EFL club is more than '90 minutes', a place that offers activities for young and old, outside the matchday experience.


Certainly, this five year community-focused partnership across clubs within England and Wales is a significant deal. It is a great fit and ideal for a company with brands that are relevant to everyone and has the marketing clout and credentials to deliver fan engagement (think back to Coca-Cola and Club Colours and Win a Player). Kellogg’s will also have a local field sales team to work within the community (think Cadbury and their local community activations with the independent retailer across multi-football clubs as well as on-pack).

From a personal note after having some hand in the Weetabix partnerships with the national teams and girls football coaching (The Weetabix Wildcats) I am delighted and enthused about more food brands investing in the national pastime of football.


5) Jaffa and Leicester Tigers - official fruit partner- the future’s bright.


Jaffa and Leicester Tigers partnership

Jaffa have added to their portfolio of fruit partnerships that include their ongoing partnership with British Gymnastics that commenced in 2021. Consumer choice these days for pre-activity, half-time, training and post recovery is off the charts. Being a brand within the fruit market is also a challenge.


A good juicy Jaffa orange clearly hits the spot with many participants. Parents and grand-parents will remember numerous campaigns to eat more fruit and having sliced orange at half-time in the changing room was the norm before Lucozade became a sports drink and a new category was born and has since exploded.


I like the brands that don’t just accept defeat and that things have moved on and will continue to look at opportunities to tap into sport and influencers to remind people that they are still relevant today.


The Leicester Tigers also have a great history, especially having produced England Men’s captains as well as the trophies. This partnership also embraces their growing women’s and wheelchair Rugby programme.


I also detect a bit of humour whereby it was mooted that a prop-forward would take to the parallel bars and a great piece of half-time entertainment with the Jaffa Zorb race for fans.


6) King of Shaves and Coventry City FC - Brotherly love or Sibling Rivalry?


King of Shaves and Coventry City FC partnership


Meet Will King, brother of the owner of Coventry City called Doug King. Yes, just as people tell me some deals are still done from CEO to CEO, we have two brothers coming together on opposite sides of the table with Will just happening to be the founder of King Of Shaves.


Betting companies and shirt sponsorship in the SKY Bet Championship are still very prevalent and Coventry City had a deal with Boyle Sports which was renewed until the end of last season. Coventry so nearly made it to the Premier League but were defeated in the Play-Off Final but this deal was written in the stars.


Certainly, King Of Shaves is a great brand to have on your shirt for any football club. They have had a history of partnerships including John Terry as well as racing driver Jordan King, son of Justin King (former CEO of Sainsbury’s).


With headquarters in Wycombe, 81 miles from the Coventry Building Society Stadium King of Shaves certainly was not a local company deal but both brothers supported the Sky Blues.


I applaud both brothers for keeping it in the family and with Coventry City so close to winning promotion to the Premier League, creating a “win/win” - and that’s what good brothers who have had success should do for each other (take a hint Noel and Liam, supporters of the other sky blues).


7) MSC Cruises and the Miami Dolphins and the Hard Rock Stadium - Miami in cruise control.


MSC Cruises and the Miami Dolphins and the Hard Rock Stadium partnership

Cruises are becoming ever more popular and MSC are number 3 in the market and the fastest growing. Their portfolio of partnerships has included F1, Napoli FC, PSG, Chelsea FC, New York Knicks and they were a previous partner of the Miami Dolphins.


The coverage behind the new deal makes impressive reading as this will clearly drive business and every port seems to be covered. The combination of the much-loved NFL team and the college football team in a 65,000 capacity stadium is more than the sum of the parts.


Not only is South Florida home to MSC, they are opening a new terminal in what is termed 'the cruise capital of the world'. The Hard Rock Stadium also hosts American Football but also major sports and music events, therefore there is a captive audience for MSC Cruises and their new ships that leave Miami for both short-haul and long-haul trips.


I compare this type of deal to the partnerships acquired by the likes of Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad but in this instance it is all about Miami as a hub with clear waters to become the dominant player in another buoyant and competitive market within travel.


8) Paddy Power and PDC Darts World Championships – The Head of Mischief finds a new home with a willing partner.



Paddy Power and PDC Darts World Championships partnership


When Paddy Power enters the partnership world and signs cheques they certainly ensure that their disruptive content-led marketing elsewhere is not diluted. Some potential rights owners look at them with dread in their eyes and fear Paddy’s DNA of being openly controversial and mischievous and do not appreciate the joke.


Their “Save our Shirt” sponsorship of Huddersfield Town won awards but people were left feeling that perhaps Paddy Power thought it was all about them, rather than the club and their fans?


PDC produce over a fortnight of entertainment from Ally Pally that has become synonymous with entertainment whereby the fun is a unique atmosphere created by the audience during the festive season. It is a unique event in the sporting calendar and major celebrities and even former members of the Royal Family have attended. Under Barry Hearn, the sport of darts was re-invented and is still seen as a great lesson in sporting makeovers.


Previous title sponsors, Ladbrokes and William Hill certainly helped create the legacy by encouraging fans to participate and be very much part of the show. However, they were seen as traditional bookmakers and part of the fabric of horse racing and football in betting terms that were looking to freshen up their image.


The anticipation alone on how Paddy Power will rise to the challenge of delivering non-stop fun and humour to the occasion is the news in itself. All the traditional media outlets and social media platforms are primed to see the humorous content that will no doubt come out this partnership. Get ready for more antics as Paddy Power bring their own game into a venue with darts players and fans being an integral part of the entertainment.



9) Peloton and Liverpool FC - Let’s get physical and digital



Peloton and Liverpool FC partnership

Liverpool FC are deservedly gaining a reputation for their partnership delivery that have seen a whole host of consumer brands from different sectors e.g. Nivea, Sonos and Quorn use their players to create content to promote their product.


They also have just extended their Carlsberg partnership for another ten years which will be 42 years in total and the longest in partnership in the Premier League and the club’s history

This partnership with Peloton is certainly multi-faceted and embraces both the men’s and the improving women’s teams. They will target Liverpool fans, primarily in the UK and the US and provide rewards to the 7 million Peleton members.


It will be all about filmed content and Peloton will have a presence at the AXA Training Centre. This product placement will be extremely powerful and cover physical training and wellbeing. With the growth in 'behind the scenes' sports documentaries and football clubs becoming publishers, I feel this partnership makes perfect sense for Peloton going forward as it involves a team brand rather than individuals.


10) ZC Rubber Tyres and Arsenal FC - East meets West as signs of a comeback from the Chinese market that is not just dependent on Rice.


ZC Rubber Tyres and Arsenal FC partnership

It has been widely reported that the Chinese economy has certainly felt the impact of Covid. Chinese based brands had been almost discounted as potential partners by many rights owners and sales agencies that broker Premier League club deals, as eyes have turned to the Middle-East and other parts of Asia in terms of the marketplace.


However, an agency called EMW (where East meets West) who continued to run offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai persuaded the parent company of the number one tyre manufacturer to sign a new three-year partnership with table-topping Arsenal. This will enable ZC Rubber to promote their tyre brands e.g. Westlake and Goodride to 200 global markets as well as their own domestic market, such is the popularity of the Premier League.


I like deals that buck trends and catch people out as both tyre brands and China were not top of people’s lists to find new partners that are willing to pay the seven-figure entry point for partnerships with leading Premier League clubs.


With EMW being the activation agency, I am sure one of the world’s biggest exporters of Rice

(India is number one) will all be delighted if Declan can deliver the Premier League title.


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 TheMissingLinke.com

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