As one of the most successful 'presenting partner' sponsorships in sport is set to end along with the re-design of its iconic logo, John Megaughin from Belfast PR agency Clearbox Communications looks at the trend of naming rights and how the marketing of these partnerships has evolved in recent history.
The Barclays Premier League, The Heineken Cup, The Sky Bet Championship. Big sponsorships that have followed a long line of naming rights deals struck between sporting organisations and bluechip companies. However, it would appear that this cash-rich tradition in sponsorship might be starting to go out of fashion.
The Premier League has had a title sponsor since its inception in 1993, when Carling supported the league for eight seasons until Barclays took over. The bank has been the title sponsor of the Premier League since 2001. Kicking off with the 'Barclaycard Premiership', the sponsorship evolved in 2004 to the 'Barclays Premier League' and has remained that way ever since.
This sponsorship history will end ahead of the 2016/17 season, when the Premier League rebrands without a title sponsor. The league plans to follow the same path of organisations like UEFA and have a number of large partners, as opposed to a naming sponsor.
It's not just the naming partner that's going - the league is also revamping its logo. Rumour has it that the lion, famous in every corner of the world, will make way for something 'cleaner' - can't wait to see what they come up with.
Love it or hate it, football has become a trend setter in the business world in recent years, so does this shift away from title sponsors by arguably the biggest sporting brand in the world signal the end of naming rights?
Not really, no.
While title sponsorships of tournaments or organisations might be heading towards the exit door, naming rights for stadiums, increasingly hot property in the last 20 years, are set to get bigger because of the greater possibilities the platform offers to brands.
The Emirates Stadium, The SSE Arena and the Aviva are just some of the great stadia in the UK & Ireland currently sporting a brand name, with more joining the fold every year. Our very own National Stadium, due to open in Belfast this year, is likely to have a brand attached to it so naming rights are very much here and now.
The Emirates sponsorship with Arsenal is a great example of how brands get more bang for their buck inside and outside the world of football. Already a club shirt sponsor, Emirates struck a deal with Arsenal in 2004 to secure naming rights to the club's new stadium. 'Ashburton Grove' became 'The Emirates Stadium' in a 10 year, £10m a year deal that has since been renewed to cover shirt sponsorship until 2019 and stadium naming rights until 2028.
The Emirates Stadium is now a brand in its own right, raising awareness of the airline to fans attending games, music fans going to concerts, business delegates attending corporate events and much more. The airline offers Arsenal fans special discounts and is active in the North London community to ram home the association with the club.
In short, sponsoring a sporting organisation in a naming rights deal is hugely effective for targeting fans of that particular sport, but big business seems to be moving more towards venue associations to widen the appeal and impact of the brand among different consumers with different interest groups.
Are stadium naming rights here to stay? Is the presenting partner aspect of football sponsorship dying? I'll definitely be watching with interest to see if the Premier League remains 'named partner' free for the foreseeable future or if another big brand will step in a few years down the line, when the brand goes truly global by inevitably playing competitive matches in other countries. West Brom vs Tottenham in Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium should be a cracker…