8th June 2016

Sponsorship in Sport; where brands got it right and wrong

Sponsorship in sport is an issue that will forever cause debate.

Sporting clubs, organisations and brands exchange millions of pounds in sponsorship in the modern world, with some deals – it could be said – shunning the values of fans in order to satisfy the big bods in the board room.

But there are cases in which sponsorship can put a positive shine on a brand. I’ve explored some cases below to investigate where brands, in my opinion, have got it right and wrong…

Specsavers and the RFL

There are times when clever sponsorship activations can highlight brand pressures to a wider world and challenge perceptions.

There is no better example than the recently launched Specsavers and RFL sponsorship, which highlights just how difficult referees have it in the game of rugby league.

Referees in rugby league are under intense scrutiny, with fans growing increasingly frustrated at poor decision making.

In a clever move, sponsor Specsavers launched an online 360 degree video challenge for fans on Facebook, to highlight how difficult it is to be in the referee’s shoes and make on the spot decisions.


Visa and the Olympics

There are times that huge international bodies have failed to put the fans first when negotiating the big money deals.

Back in 2010, Visa announced a deal with the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic games to become its ‘official payment system’. In a move that shunned practicality and put the plans of thousands of games-going fans into jeopardy, Visa disabled 27 LINK machines inside venues and replaced them with eight Visa-only cashpoints.

Visa also ordered the closure of all cashpoints which accepted MasterCard or American Express. Do you think this was a step too far?


UEFA Maxi Pitch

UEFA, a sporting governing body you would usually associate with wrong-doing and bad processes, showed its charitable hand back in 2011 with an initiative that still runs yearly to this day.

In 2011, UEFA announced proposals to donate a full-sized 3G football pitch to a community in the cities hosting that year’s UEFA Champions League and Europa League finals, to ensure the legacy of each final lives on.

UEFA hand picks deserving locations in the host cities to promote football’s foundations within its communities. At the time of writing, UEFA has donated pitches to cities in England, Belgium, Portugal, Germany and Switzerland, with Italy to come later in 2016.


I’m going to leave you with a recent example of when sponsorship went too far in my opinion.

Picture the scene. The atmosphere inside a football stadium is building. 75,000 people roar with anticipation of the players entering the pitch.

Instead of the atmosphere building chant that precedes every game, the crowd are treated to the 20th Century Fox Theme Tune. The bizarre antics don’t stop there…

Accompanying your hero onto the football pitch is every kids dream, right? Well how about being denied such opportunity after the club you support decides to use mascots as a marketing tool. That’s the case with Manchester United and its X-Men partnership. Check out some of the ridicule from fans below…




And it gets worse. How about this for a marketing video?! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ei5a4R9mWz8

And I’m a MUFC fan!

Do you agree with the highlighted examples? Have you seen any sporting sponsorship deals that have had you scratching your head?

Be sure to tweet your views to @nathanyoud and @TangerineComms, or comment below!

By Nathan Youd, Community Manager