Revolutionary Measures

Sports sponsorship own goals

Sport seems to bring out the worst in companies and how they spend their money. Organisations with otherwise well-thought out and laser targeted marketing plans suddenly decide to pour huge amounts of cash into sports sponsorship on what seems like a whim (or more cynically it’s the CEO’s favourite team).

Autonomy’s current sponsorship of Tottenham Hotspur is a prime example – I don’t think that many of the denizens of White Hart Lane are responsible for buying high end enterprise search solutions, but nevertheless the company has splashed £20 million on plastering its name across the front of Gareth Bale.

It got me thinking about other misguided sports sponsorships, and, while I’m sure there are plenty more, here’s my top 10:

1.Waitrose and Reading FC

Waitrose is pretty good at marketing to middle England – so why sponsor Reading football club when few of its target audience support it or are that bothered by Championship football? Waitrose HQ isn’t far away from Reading, but surely there’s a limit to what can be spent on employee motivation?

2.US Postal Service and Lance Armstrong

A brave move by the US equivalent of the Royal Mail to move away from its reputation for poor service and frequent office shootings (hence the phrase ‘going postal’). But sponsoring a cycling team that raced 99 per cent of the time outside its domestic market isn’t be that effective a way of reaching your target audience.

3. Durex and Surtees F1

The testosterone-filled Grand Prix scene and sex sounds like the perfect combination. Hence Durex’s sponsorship of the Surtees F1 team in the 1970s. Then the cars began to suffer from punctures – not the right message for a condom maker……..

4. Austrian football

Such is the parlous state of Austrian football finances that teams are forced to name themselves after sponsors, no matter how silly they might be. Glatter’s Quality Turkeys versus FC Concept Schnitzlplatz anyone?

5.Hafnia and Everton FC

Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones spoke for the nation ahead of the 1984 FA Cup final when they asked who (or what?) was a Hafnia, then sponsors of Everton FC. Extensive research reveals Hafnia to be a Danish canned meat company, but even Wikipedia isn’t quite certain. Given the Toffees featured Welsh man-mountain Neville Southall in goal, Hafnia’s products obviously had a big following in the dressing room.

6.Paris Hilton and MotoGP

Working on her normal subtle self-promotion socialite Paris Hilton is sponsoring a MotoGP team in 2011. Good for the team and sport, but can’t really see how it helps her brand – even if the bikes are a lurid shade of pink.

7.Cercle Brugge and the Roman Catholic Church

One that didn’t happen after the Belgian football club Cercle Brugge turned down sponsorship from a leading Roman Catholic newspaper, for fear of ridicule. If it had been 30 years ago, they could have put Pope John Paul II in goal…………

8. Norwich City and Lotus Cars

The Lotus factory is in Norfolk, but the rural county isn’t exactly bursting with potential sportscar buyers, making the company’s upmarket sponsorship of the Budgies a trifle optimistic. More realistic when they stuck parent company’s Proton’s brand on the shirts.

9. Millwall FC and Lewisham Council

It’s fair to say that Millwall FC (and its fans) has a certain reputation, and it isn’t for flower arranging. So if you were looking to raise the brand of your area and show it as go-ahead and welcoming they wouldn’t really be your first choice of channel. But the Lions’ local council sponsored the team on not one, but two occasions in the late 80s/early 90s – hardly the best use of its marketing budget?

10. Livingston FC and Intelligent Finance

Surely, if you are a finance company sponsoring a football team, the first thing you think you’d do is check out the club’s solvency? Not in the case of Intelligent Finance and Livingston FC – the club duly went into administration. And to add insult to injury the main creditor was Halifax Bank of Scotland, Intelligent Finance’s parent company.


I’m sure there are plenty of other misplaced sponsorships – feel free to add them through comments.


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January 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

BT’s Premier League own goal?

Michael Owen - Real Madrid
Image via Wikipedia

Despite a high profile advertising blitz, BT’s plans to sign up customers for its new Premier League TV channels are apparently not delivering, according to one analyst at least. The £30 million spend is predicted to only add 60,000 customers to the BT Vision service by the end of September.

OFCOM forced Sky to offer its rivals wholesale cheap access to its sports channels, allowing BT to move into sports broadcasting.

Obviously the figures are conjecture, but here’s the top 5 reasons I think BT Vision may not be pulling in the punters:

1. Sky’s marketing muscle
Sky’s marketing response has been powerful and emphasised how little you get from BT Vision compared to the ‘full’ Sky Sports package. A case study in defensive marketing.

2. Satellite TV isn’t just football anymore
Sky may have been founded on football but the market has matured. People now sign up for a whole range and package of channels – Sky has realised that and changed its marketing to target the higher revenue family market.

3. BT Vision is difficult to explain
People understand how Sky, Virgin Media and terrestrial TV work, and how they sign up. To get cheap football you need BT broadband and line rental as well. Why go to the hassle of changing everything, particularly as telecoms companies aren’t renowned for getting service spot on.

4. The adverts themselves
I know there was a World Cup on so recognisable footballers were thin on the ground, but little Michael Owen is hardly A list anymore. And the inability to use team strips makes the adverts look like he’s playing for Bolton Wanderers.

5. BT is not a media brand
Convergence of networks and content has been talked about ad nauseum and people understand they can bolt on broadband to lots of other services, like TV. But the brand they trust is the media one – Sky is simply stronger than BT when it comes to delivering content.

We’re obviously less than a week into the new football season and jumping to conclusions is a favourite media tactic –Blackpool for the Champions League anyone? Come November, when BT announces subscriber numbers things may have changed, but time for BT to strike back if it wants to score with football.

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August 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments