Curve Ball – Is Football a Better Sponsorship Investment Than Motorsport?
While Michelin, Pirelli, Cooper, Kumho and – apparently – two other firms were battling it out to win the 2011 Formula 1 tyre supply deal, Continental AG was busy adding another championship to its football sponsorship portfolio. Conti’s decision to become a ‘premium’ sponsor of the DFB (German Football Association) Cup in its home market in addition to the firm’s global sponsorship of this year’s World Cup and the 2014 event in Brazil, demonstrates some typically Teutonic pragmatism.
Rather than get involved in a bidding war that presents the winner with a logistic nightmare and a huge multi-million pound/euro/dollar bill, their thinking is that investing in a variety of top level football sponsorship deals reaches just as many potential customers. And this is without the associated hassle of having to develop, custom build, test and deliver some of the most expensive tyres in the world. True there is all the associated automotive excitement that comes with F1 support, but this way there’s no chance of your tyres making an equally public spectacle of themselves either, leaving the marketing department (and the R&D department) free to concentrate on other things.
For its part Continental has been involved in sponsoring European professional football since 1995 (we all remember seeing tyres pop up at every ad break in the Champion’s League coverage), but the company also announced earlier this year that it would be sponsoring major league soccer in the USA for the first time. This means, in the company’s words, that it is pursuing “a consistent and single-minded global strategy” of using football as a communications platform.
The latest two-year “German FA Cup” package guarantees Continental not only a television presence through brand advertising, but also other publicity vehicles in the stadiums where all 63 cup games will be held throughout Germany. And this gives the company local as well as international consumer exposure.
“With this sponsorship, we are building a bridge in the German-speaking countries between the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the qualification matches for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, which are going to be getting underway in 2012. In doing so, we wish to put our commitment to pro football on a broader base, expand it further regionally too as the central communication platform, and take a further step towards clearly positioning the premium brand Continental with a focus on safety and braking performance,” explained Timo Röbbel, who is responsible for sports sponsorship at Continental in its German-speaking markets.
Football ‘the more efficient investment’
Continental is not the only firm in the tyre business to have latched onto the power of football sponsorship. Kumho Tire Co., for example, has sought to leverage the unique global profile of 18-time English league champions, Manchester United since sponsoring the Kumho Cup friendly in Seoul in May 2007 and subsequently becoming a platinum partner. The latter puts it alongside the team’s latest sponsors Vina Concha y Toro SA (Chile’s largest winery) and global brands like Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s Budweiser beer.
Details of the price associated with either Continental’s or Kumho’s investments have not been released, but Conti’s is clearly the largest and most expensive of its kind in the tyre world. When Tyres & Accessories interviewed marketing director Lars Fahrenbach at the start of 2005, when the company was preparing for its maiden support of the 2006 World Cup, the most he was willing to say was sponsorship cost somewhere between 10 and 100 million euros. Since then, Conti has significantly extended its football sponsorship into a continual programme including World Cups and European Championships, meaning the investment is likely to be significantly more now. The rationale? The World Cup is the “more efficient investment” compare to motorsport in general or F1 in particular.
The exact size of Kumho’s investment is similarly difficult to track down, but here’s an idea of the scale involved. As a club Manchester United has generated more than £200 million (236.452 million euros; $289 million) in commercial revenue from 20 agreements since establishing its London-based sales office in 2007, according toreports.
Then there’s Kumho, Maxxis, Yokohama, Pirelli…
Other high profile football sponsorship embarked upon by tyre companies include Pirelli’s sponsorship of home club Inter Milan, where the firm’s shirt sponsorship was visible to the millions watching the recent Champions League final against Bayern Munich, which was the world’s most watched sporting event – beating even the US SuperBowl in 2009; and its support of the UK’s headquarter’s home team Burton Albion, which named its stadium after Pirelli. Yokohama continues the local theme with sponsorship of local teams with support for Milton Keyens based MK Dons. For its part Maxxis supplements its long list of two and four wheel motorsport support with advertising hoardings at the grounds of Liverpool, Aston Villa and Sunderland.
Return on investment from sponsorship of any kind is notorious difficult to pin down with any degree of certainty, but for all the positives associated with football sponsorship, there is a one unalterable drawback – there are no tyres involved.