The importance of sponsorship for football clubs is well known as the revenue from commercial activity acts as a competitive advantage for the clubs. Sponsorship has also become very popular amongst individuals and athletes who act as brand ambassadors which create a benefit both for the player and the brand, rather than a deal with a club. A personal deal reaches different audiences than a club deal regardless of the club the player plays for.
Recently, the LFP, the professional organiser of competitions in French football, has teamed up with the famous marketing agency Havas in order to find a suitable title sponsor for the Ligue 1 competition. Competition sponsorship means more revenue for the organising body. Apart from revenue, the LFP seeks another growth for its top competition, awareness and profile growth.
The Premier is regarded as the most popular football league in the world. In fact, the phrase Premier League became so synonymous among football fans that the league decided not the renew the deal with Barclays bank which expired at the end of the 2015-16 season. A partnership since 2001.
Looking at the other top leagues in Europe reveals a mixed approach towards title sponsorship. In Spain, before the switch to La Liga Santander as it is now called, the name of the league was La Liga BBVA which sponsored the league since 2009/10. In Italy, the deal with the national telecom company TIM was renewed in 2015 and is expected to run until 2018, actually, the deal with TIM dates back to 1998. In Germany, the Bundesliga was always known as the Bundesliga and never had a title sponsor. Finally, back to France, until 2008 the Ligue 1 was known as the Orange Ligue 1. Since then the league had no sponsor.
I decided to assist the search and suggest a few potential sponsors. Firstly, here are a few criteria for the potential sponsoring company:
- Be globally known- this will help get the name of the Ligue 1 out. Also, a global company has wide network and extensions in areas which can help the league grow.
- Add more than just a name- the partnering company must have products or service that can provide a unique feature to the competition and the coverage of it.
- CSR Compliant- there is no ignoring CSR anymore. In order to fit in today’s business environment, a company must take care not only of profits.
- Be local- allowing a local company to showcase its brand with the popularity of football can be perceived as positive by French people and football fans in the ongoing battle of opinions towards the commercialisation of football.
Carabao- the upcoming energy drink brand from Thailand has already set a foothold in European football, firstly in England. Partnerships with Chelsea FC and Reading FC followed by a title sponsorship of the EFL Cup/League cup. It is reasonable to assume that the money is there to spend for Carabao in their quest to increase brand awareness and sales. Teaming up with the French league which currently has several new and improved stadiums provides wide options of advertising places. A partnership with Carabao can increase the awareness towards the Ligue 1 and its participating clubs as Thailand is proven to be an important market for football clubs with a global approach. Carabao doesn’t have a clear CSR policy. However, part of its agreement with Chelsea and Reading covers the Women’s team too.
Car Manufacturer- Partnering with a car manufacturer can prove to be beneficial. Especially with the strong car brands France has. The Peugeot- Citroen group is known worldwide and operates across the globe too. The group has six strategic regions in which it operates and China was the group’s number one market in 2015 in terms of vehicles sold. A company with such a structured approach will know how to operate and differentiate the population in the desired target markets for Ligue 1.
The Citroen brand is already linked with top clubs in Europe such as Arsenal and PSG so the intent of sports sponsorships exists within the company.
The Renault group can provide a similar reach and structured approach too.
Telecom- having been in a partnership with France’s leading telecom company (Orange) before, it would be interesting to see whether a telecom company will be chosen again. In fact, Orange returned to French football to be the main partner of the new Ligue 1 E-sports league, so perhaps a partnership with Orange again or another telecom company is not likely.
Airline- A partnership between an airline and the league can be beneficial for both parties. By partnering with an airline, the league can benefit from the airline’s financial power and especially if the airline is part of an alliance. Moreover, the league has the opportunity to reach various markets through the range of destinations in which the airline operates. Some destination may be found as unique niche markets. For the airline, a partnership with the league can broaden the customer segmentation by creating specialised travel packages to and from selected destination and become stronger in those lines.
Food- if the LFP wishes to stick to the same theme they chose for the Ligue 2 title sponsor they should start seeking for another fast food sponsor. From the 2016 season, the Ligue 2 is known to be the Domino’s Ligue 2, yes after Domino’s Pizza. It may sound odd but Domino’s Pizza is actually a great platform to get your brand out. The company’s app is very popular and the partnership with Ligue 2 probably allows special offers and promotions. According to Euromonitor, Mcdonald’s was the leading brand in France in 2016. Mcdonald’s is already heavily involved in football with its FIFA World Cup partnership. Will we see the Starbucks Ligue 1? Or maybe the Subway Ligue 1?
Currently, among the Ligue 1 partners list, we can find Canal+ and Bein Sports as the official broadcasters, the technology company HTC and the betting company Parions as official partners, and Adidas and La poste, a French postal service company.
Usually, money does the talking and it is plausible to assume that the most valuable deal will be the one taken by LFP. However, in today’s business and football environment money can’t be the only deciding factor and the LFP will have to choose the deal that presents the most growth and customer reach. The Ligue 1 is behind its Italian, German, Spanish and English rivals in terms of TV revenue especially, but in revenue in general. The latest broadcasting deal for Ligue 1 was sold for €726.5M and will cover the 2016-2020 seasons.
Partnering with a famous agency such as Havas who has high profile clients amongst its ranks can secure a very important and valuable deal for French football.