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How Michael Jordan Became a Top PSG Summer Signing

The Champions League shirts from Nike’s Jordan brand might not have brought PSG luck, but they certainly support their income as they are about to hit one million shirt sales per season.

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When Paris Saint-Germain gathered their new assets for the coming seasons last summer, their collaboration with Nike’s Jordan clothing line was already seen as a marketing coup. The creation of their third kit, a black and white classic, was an unprecedented move. For the reknowned Jordan brand logo replaced Nike’s famously-present Swoosh on the clothing. What could have ended up as as a well-intended, yet maybe misguided measure, has indeed helped the club – or rather the brand – PSG flourish. For the first time they’re on course to sell over a million shirts per season as a 470 per cent rise in sales in the US market makes them a fashionable choice over there.

Big personalities make for massive sales

In modern football, kit deals have become an invaluable source for income. First of all, we have the sponsoring, which earns clubs, especially the big ones playing in the Champions League, tens of millions per season. Even more so, since sleeve sponsors started to take over. Furthermore, main sponsors are prepared to pay lager sums with every new sponsorship which opens up opportunities. PSG, in order to comply with UEFA Financial Fairplay, will change the long-lasting Fly Emirates on their chest from next season on. The hotel chain Accor will see its Accor Live Limitless initiative represented in the letters ALL on the french outfit’s chest – and will reportedly pay close to 50 million Euro per season for that.

Apart from sponsorships, selling shirts is, of course, a steady source for revenue. And it takes no wonder that superstars help reach super numbers when it comes to shirt sales. PSG’s policy of buying big in the transfer market pays off in that context, too. The arrivals of Neymar and Mbappé, joining the likes of Cavani, Veratti or Di Maria, have taken those shirt sales to another level. According to Marca, kit sales have increased 80 per cent last season compared to two years back and will grow even more this time. Before the investment from PSG’s current owners, the club sold only about 80.000 kits a season. So the influence of Neymar and Mbappé, who are also two of the most followed people on Instagram, is clear to see. Another confirmation of this effect are numbers related to Juventus Turin’s shirt sales this season, now that they have Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks. As Sportskeeda reportreferring to Tuttorsport –, the Old Lady made 26,51 million Euro in the first half of this season with product sales and licences. At the same time last season, without Ronaldo, the amount was 14,56 million.

PSG X Jordan goes beyond football to strengthen the brand

The motto for the Paris Saint-Germain meets Nike Jordan line is closely related to a celebrity-centred approach. Although a lot of people these days might be more familiar with Nike’s Air Jordan boots than with Michael Jordan himself. Anyway, getting the Nike Jordan brand on board was a shrewd move for PSG. As SportsPro Media report, they will hit one million shirt sales for the first time ever. Merging their yearly expanding football brand, with its superstars on the pitch, Al-Khelaifi’s ongoing investment and their growing number of domestic titles, with something more of a lifestyle and fashion brand has certainly promoted those Champions League shirts to a level where more people will buy and wear it. Even if they’re not that much into football. Because a lot of media icons have already sported the wear, for example NBA star Draymond Green or even Justin Timberlake.

In the US alone, PSG have recorded 470 per cent! more sales of wear of their Nike Jordan line. 40.000 shirts are said to have been sold the weekend after the release.

And PSG are clever enough not to breach a market with unidimensional clothing. Thus, their Champions League shirt is available both in black and white; so hardcore fans can purchase them both. And with prices of 85 and 140 Euro respectively, that will gain them some revenue for sure. The whole clothing range has much more to offer, though. Basketball shirts, which are a proven asset in modern lifestyle, especially for some musicians, jackets, the famous Nike Air shoes, caps and what have you.

Screenshot from the PSG Jordan online store, © Paris Saint-Germain

According to Die WELT, they offer around 90 products and Nike, Jordan and PSG expect to make at least 200 million Euro per year with that line, which will be split between them.

Native brand collaboration cuts it

What PSG have done really well with their Jordan branding is the native way in which the Nike brand was adopted. For the Michael Jordan reminiscence, which is obviously the brand’s logo, does replace Nike’s Swoosh while it strongly resembles the depiction of the Eiffel Tower in PSG’s logo consequently on the shirt. Some might say it’s a bit of a long shot, but it certainly offers the impression of a more native branding approach – as it perfectly reflects the two brands joining forces on the actual kits and all the other products. While some football fans still see PSG as something of a parvenu – whose economical goals will overshadow the club’s and footballing tradition –, the success of that marketing stroke speaks for itself.

However, their unlucky, unexpected and premature exit from the Champions League this season will have cost them some money. And probably will have dented the growing shirt sales curve a bit. It might take time before any football fan can accept these strategies. We’ve come to the days, though, when Michael Jordan, somehow, has become a great acquisition for the football club Paris Saint-Germain. And it’s not a bad idea for other big clubs to copy such cooperations in order to transfer their brand into modern lifestyle. Not every sports traditionalist will like it, yet, every club sales director will. And it might eventually pay for new players, too – who can bolster shirt sales themselves.

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Football’s Richest: Revenue Isn’t Just Tied to Success

Real Madrid have overtaken Manchester United, who announced astonishing earnings, as the world’s most valuable football brand despite both clubs having had disastrous seasons.

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Any football club has to be led like a company these days. From an economical point of view, it’s not just about the teams or players, but very much about the brand. And new findings show that success on the pitch is not always neccesary in order to be accounted for the most valuable brands in football, as Man Utd and Real Madrid show. They do of course have the luxury of being able to rely on their titles and star players. But it’s also their branding that makes them flourish financially.

Real Madrid become the most valuable football brand

Brand Finance publishes the Football 50 report annually and lists the most successful brands in the ecosystem. Real Madrid have this year overtaken Manchester United to become 2019’s most valuable brand in football, with an estimated worth of 1,646 billion Euro. Bryn Anderson, director at Brand Finance, explains:

Real Madrid have shown this year who truly reigns supreme in the world of football. They triumph not only as the most valuable and strongest brand but their enterprise value and stadium are also ranked second to none. The most successful club in the history of European football is finally reaping the benefits of decades of spectacular on- and off-pitch performance.

The Spanish giants are actually still the reigning Champions League winners – until 1 June. But their recent season has been quite terrible for their standards, being knocked out of every competition bar the Club World Cup and having had no real chance for the La Liga title. While the Spanish champions FC Barcelona sit third in Brand Finance’s rankings, Manchester United are still second, with an estimated worth of 1,472 billion Euro.

But their recent failings on the pitch have not only made them fall off top spot, but also lose worth. They haven’t gone on to win anything, since Mourinho gave them the Europa League success in 2017 – and their last league title came in 2013 under Sir Alex Ferguson and is a distant memory now. Their latest campaign has been rather miserable, apart from the women’s success.

United also slipped to fourth in the strongest brands ranking behind Bayern Munich. Despite their poor form on the pitch and the costs of sacking José Mourinho in December, the club still announced earnings of nearly 500 million pounds for the financial year ended 31 March. The brand is so poweful that both commercial and broadcasting revenue brought in more than 200 million pounds in that period. The third quarter 2019 alone saw them earn just over 150 million pounds. Such sucess is strengthened by lucrative new partnerships, for instance with Marriott or Maui Jim.

United executive vice chairman, Ed Woodward, says that the club will help the new manager in restoring success on the pitch as well:

After a turbulent season, everyone at Manchester United is focussed on building towards the success that this great club expects and our fans deserve. Preparations for the new season are underway and the underlying strength of our business will allow us to support the Manager and his team as we look to the future.

Premier League dominates brand value rankings

England’s first tier, the Premier League, accounts for 43 per cent of total brand value. The league has 17 entrants in Brand Finance’s top 50. Even the promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers have jumped ahead of Ajax Amsterdam, Celtic Glasgow or the FC Sevilla in terms of brand value. Six of the ten strongest brands and most valuable brands are from England: the Premier League’s traditional top six.

Strongest and most valuable brands in football, © Brand Finance

The biggest winners in brand value change in total numbers are Real Madrid (+349 million Euro), FC Liverpool (+199 million Euro), PSG (+161 million Euro) and Manchester City (+158 million Euro). Still, the biggest growth can be attributed to the FC Sevilla, a club that grew brand value by 49,1 per cent. Other clubs in that listing are SSC Napoli (36,3 per cent) or even the FC Southampton (32,4 per cent).

While the report from Brand Finance gives a comprehensive overview regarding the brand value of football clubs, it also shows that England does have the highest value, but second-placed Spain is only slightly ahead of Germany.

Brand value by country, © Brand Finance

Next in line are Italy and France, but the value of all the countries behind that accounts for only a fraction of the leading contenders.

A lot of other factors are presented in the report, explaining that Borussia Dortmund are number one for the Matchday Experience, while Bayern Munich are best in the category broadcaster and partner appeal. Fan perceptions are also quoted, showing that some people like Barcelona for their “cool branding“, whereas others favour PSG for having their favourite player in their ranks. The Brand Finance report elucidates how money talks in football these days – even if you’re not successful on the pitch for some time. However, the enormous amounts of money that the biggest club brands generate will probably give the not so unreasonable impression that there will be an ever growing imbalance in the financial powers of football leagues and clubs. Yet, it’s nice to reckon that clubs like the 1.FC Nuremberg, AS Saint-Étienne or Newcastle United are mentioned in the same breath as Manchester United, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, when it comes to history and heritage.

Values, which shouldn’t be forgotten whilst growing the club revenue. For a brand, success is everything. For a football club, though, there is more.

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Global Rights Holders Miss Out on 16 Billion Euro Sponsorship Money

The global sports sponsorhip market will grow to 41 billion Euro in 2019. But due to outdated rights packages, a further 16 billion remain unrealised revenue.

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Sponsorships are an undeniable pillar of the sports ecosystem. Football clubs around the world rely on deals with companies that ensure revenue, while those brands expect to gain viewability. These synergy effects simply cannot be underestimated regarding the growth of clubs, leagues or associations. Therefore, sponsorhip opportunities are leveraged more and more emphatically. Be it sleeve sponsors on shirts or branding on training wear. Now, a report shows the ongoing growth of sponsorhip value, but points to missed opportunities as well. While there are threats to sponsorhip income, data could lead the way to more spend eventually.

16 billion Euro: The amount that rights holders are missing

Once, sponsoring used to be rather easy. A company wanted to be connected to a specific sports team, athlete, league etc. and paid an agreed sum in order to be seen, with their logo sported on shirts, shown on perimeter boards or what have you. Actually, in football it’s still extremely important to be seen on a kit or inside the stadium. But the opportunities have become much more differentiated. The viewability is there, if your company features on the shirt twice.

Furthermore, brands are integrated into apps, for example, to present starting line-ups or substitutions. They also need to be seen on Social Media or in the context of the various other outlets of clubs.

In a way, sports clubs and even leagues have to carry a self-image as brands rather than sports consortia and will need to grow revenue every single year to stay competitive. That seems even more important, since super rich investors put some proportions in the football ecosystem off the balance. So, sponsorhip deals are greatly important to clubs like the FC Barcelona – who earn 55 million Euro a season from kit sponsor Rakuten alone – and SC Freiburg as well, who get just over 2,5 million a year from Schwarzwaldmilch. Barcelona will even receive 1,5 million Euro extra from Rakuten for winning La Liga and could pocket another 5 million if they win the Champions League – which doesn’t seem unlikely at the moment. Thus, the Spanish giants contribute a lot to the 41 billion Euro, which Two Circles have anticipated will be gained by global rights holders in 2019 as sponsorhip revenue in the sports universe. This will mean the revenue will grow by four per cent. Yet, Two Circles estimate that a staggering 16 billion Euro more could be gained – if it wasn’t for outdated rights packages.

Modern standards will have to be set for sponsorhip packages

The brand spend for sponsorships in sports has grown steadily over the years and will reach about 58 million Euro in 2024. But the unrealised sponsorship value is growing, too.

Two Circles estimate that the global rights holders’ packages are actually worth 57 billion Euro this year. That means 16 billion of worth are not leveraged. Gareth Balch, Two Circles’ CEO, explains:

Most rights-holders continue to package and sell sponsorship just as they did 20 years ago – offering brand exposure through linear broadcast coverage as the main benefit for brands. Globally we’re spending more time consuming entertainment on digital platforms; we consistently see a disparity between what brands need to reach an audience effectively and quantifiably, and what digital assets rights-holders are able to offer in their sponsorship packages.

Therefore, the company have found that the rights holders have underachieved financially, not leveraging the potential of 14 billion Euro a year on average ever since 2014.

In order to take advantage of that huge financial potential, rights holders like clubs and leagues will need to factor more aspects into their sponsorship plans, such as Social Media or OTT reach. Additionally, it could be worthwile to lure new kinds of brands to the sponsorship table in the long term. For the sponsors pie right now – at least in the UK – is pretty much dominated by proven players such as financial services (19 per cent), automotive (14 per cent), airline (13 per cent), gambling (12 per cent), alcohol (9 per cent) or soft drinks (7 per cent). Other categories account for 26 per cent.

But there might be changes in the sponsorhip landscape sooner rather than later, if you look at the UK. Mind you, some gambling companies plan to restrict their marketing on football kits, during broadcasting and on perimeter boards – and they demand that other companies follow suit.

Gambling operators have a key role to play in protecting people from harm and identifying potentially risky betting behaviour,

said UK’s Gambling Minister Mims Davies MP. If gambling was excluded from main sponsorhips, the UK sports market with its rights holders would suffer straight away, you may reckon. Yet, it would also open up new possibilities to integrate new brands for which it might have become more lucrative to sponsor sports teams these days. To find out which brands are a good fit, clubs and leagues alike turn to up-to-date data measurement. Balch says:

Rights-holders are adapting to this new world and we predict a sports sponsorship correction: by embracing the power of data and digital to create sponsorship assets that better satisfy the objectives of brands, rights-holders will realise the true value of their sponsorship businesses. This will drive greater spend from brands in all sectors, not just the ‘traditional’ sectors for sport such as financial services, automotive, airlines and gambling.

His stance cannot be too surprising, given Two Circles offer sponsorship measurement solutions as well.

Taking advantage of altered circumstances

But brands can indeed leverage the power of data to determine whether sponsoring a certain club would be worth it. Even for Twitch, a coming platform for different sports, mainly eSports, but football as well, there are new measurement solutions these days.

So, sponsorship spend does grow, but it could grow even bigger. And while in sports it shouldn’t be the ultimate goal to just earn as much money as you can, this somehow is the big incentive for competitive brands. That’s why more sponsorhip opportunities will arise. A new kind of reception, a whole new level of sports wear and merch and more and more different international audiences offer the chance to augment sponsorship income in the long term. Data will help assess the approach and findings like the study from Two Circles certainly could be regarded as an incentive for rights holders and brands alike. Will all those sponsorhips bear down the sports experience somehow? Maybe; but we’re all part of it and we as the sports audiences create that space where billions of sponsorship money are spent to keep the sports ecosystem intact.

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Will Betting Sponsors be Banned from Shirts in the UK?

A group owning betting powerhouses Ladbrokes and Coral calls for betting sponsorships to stop during broadcasting and on clubs’ shirts in the UK. That would change the sponsorship landscape dramatically.

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Betting is a big part of football, especially in the UK. The number of shirts, on which we can see betting companies as main sponsors, is telling. Now the GVC Holdings, that owns reknowned bookmaker Ladbrokes, puts more effort in its initiative Changing for the Bettor in order to tackle the problem of gambling. Therefore, betting sponsorships on shirts or perimeter boards in the British Premier League and Footbal League shall be banned. Is that proposition really realisable, given the stranglehold of the industry on sponsorhips?

So many main sponsors in the Premier League are betting companies

Betting companies are widespread sponsors across the football ecosystem. In the Bundesliga, only Hertha BSC sport such a company on their match kits and in La Liga we see Marathonbet on Málaga’s shirts. On the perimeter boards, betting companies are also ever present. But it’s in the UK, that the connection is particularly salient. The Premier League and the Football League Championship are dominated by betting sponsors shirt-wise. In the Premier League, it’s nine from 20 teams, in the Championship an astonishing 17 from 24 that have a betting partner on their chest: Bet365, 32Red, Betfred, 888 Sport, Dafabet, LeoVegas, Betway and the list goes on. The FC Burnley are one on several clubs sporting a betting company on their kits.

Additionally, Sky Bet is sponsoring England’s second, third and fourth tier. Youth teams are not allowed to wear such logos as those of betting companies. Still, a bad influence is assumed by some. At the start of this season, Gambling Watch UK’s Professor Jim Orford was quoted by FootyHeadlines:

There is evidence that gambling is becoming ever more normalised, particularly among young people, so that increasingly betting is seen as part and parcel of following and supporting one’s favourite sport or team. Many people think gambling is now out of control in Britain which has the most liberal online gambling regulations of any European country.

The correlation of betting and football has become common, even professional football players have placed bets more often than they should have in the past. As the debate about this relation goes on, both GVC, that owns Ladbrokes, Coral and Gala, and William Hill are considering a change, when it comes to marketing for betting in sports. According to the BBC, they will both stop football shirt sponsorhips, while GVC will stop perimeter advertising. Moreover, the company, which in January launched its Changing for the Bettor initiative, wants betting companies to stop advertising in sports altogether. At the time, GVC’s Director of Responsible Gaming, Grainne Hurst, said:

Whilst the vast majority of our customers enjoy playing with us in a safe and fun environment we are aware that for some players, gambling can impact their lives negatively. We are committed to leading the industry in minimising potential harm caused by problem gambling. That is why we are today launching Changing for the Bettor and have partnered with Harvard faculty at the Division on Addiction to help us to better understand and tackle the issues around problem gambling.

The UK’s Gambling Minister Mims Davies MP said:

Gambling operators have a key role to play in protecting people from harm and identifying potentially risky betting behaviour.

The first of them are taking a new route. But will others follow suit to tackle the problem, even if it means missing out on a fair amount of views and potentially losing brand awareness?

The UK’s betting problem is getting worse with young people

In 2016, the British National Health Service (NHS) said that 42 per cent (56 if you included National Lottery participants) of the population in England were into gambling. Numbers cited more recently saw about 430.000 problem gamblers in the UK. A new study by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) found that nearly 55.000 children between eleven and 16 years of age have gambling issues, while about 450.000 are into betting activities. On average 16 pound per week are spent for that, despite betting not being allowed for people under 18.

As a first reaction, the UK will ban any advertisement for betting from child-friendly websites or online games. And now, football as one of the main media events not only in the UK, but worldwide, could be next in line, when it comes to ptrotecting young people – but not only them – from being confronted with more betting brands. Besides such negative effects, though, the gross gambling yield (GGY) of the Great Britain gambling industry was 14,4 billion pounds in the year from April 2017 to March 2018; and those numbers will only have grown. That means that the gambling and betting companies do make a lot of money in England, Scotland etc. And will they follow GVC’s lead, if they’re not forced to? Because that could well mean a decrease in revenue, albeit mingled with the good conscience of being more responsible.

One question remains: who does have the responsibility in terms of protecting people from developing gambling problems? It cannot be argued that it is the betting companies’ fault alone simply for being there. But their stranglehold in British football and sports sponsoring certainly reproduces the overcome idea of a correlation of football and betting for the worse. Thus, ending it smoothly might be the right call from the companies themselves. Because regulation could be around the corner, anyway. If that happens, a lot of clubs in British football would have to look for new main sponsors on their shirts, though. But that could be a lucrative competition for viewability eventually. And some new brands might surface in the Premier League or the Football League more prominently. Therefore, this whole debate unites potential and economical fears. It will be exciting to monitor those developments off the pitch in the months and years to come.

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All for the Money? Will Kick Offs and Venues Change as Part of Internationalisation

The Spanish Super Cup could move to Saudi Arabia, while Ligue 1 kick off times will change in order to keep a Chinese audience engaged.

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Some fans already fume about the fragmentation of matchdays due to broadcasting demands. Games on a Monday are not really popular and some kick off times just don’t appeal to the supporters. The accusation that this scheduling is merely meant to augment revenue streams is further fueled by various plans to change established frames for the football reception in some countries. La Liga’s plan to play matches in the US might have hit a stumbling block, but the Super Cup could now move to Saudi Arabia – as sponsorship money lures. Meanwhile, the Ligue 1 plans to change kick off times to satisfy Chinese audiences. Those changes would be worthwile; but will such transitions be seamless for every fan out there?

Playing somewhere else: La Liga could earn 30 million Euro a year

The remarkable amount of 30 million Euro annually, for six years, is on the cards for La Liga. It is, according to Marca, offered to the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) by the Saudi government, which would like to see the prestigious games between champions and cup winners from Spain staged on their soil. It would’t be a new experience for teams like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona or FC Sevilla, since the Supercopa de España was played abroad as a single match for the first time this season, with Barcelona beating Sevilla in Tangier in August.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia already have a deal in place allowing them to host the Supercoppa Italiana for three seasons. In January, Juventus defeated AC Milan in the King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah.

Nothing has been decided yet as the RFEF would even consider cooperations that last longer – and therefore offer more income. Adding to this opportunity to move games abroad is Luis Rubiales’ – who is the RFEF president – plan to create a final four for the Supercopa. That would see the top two of La Liga and the Copa del Rey finalists compete from a semi-final on somewhere out of Spain. While such plans promise additional income aplenty, it would also create something of an inauthentic experience. Plus, it could confound fixture planning a lot. That is a main reason why La Liga itself is opposing the RFEF plans at the moment, as Reuters report.

La Liga’s general assembly has agreed at today’s meeting to not support the changes to the Copa del Rey and Super Cup which have been proposed by the RFEF. This is due to the fact that these types of changes should be agreed to by La Liga as they affect clubs belonging to the league and they imply an important change to the professional competition calendar,

said a statement from the body. 39 of the 42 clubs in the first and second tier had opposed the changes.

At the start of the season there were reports about a deal that would see one La Liga match a season played on US soil. But the FIFA rejected the approach officially:

Consistent with the opinion expressed by the Football Stakeholders Committee, the Council emphasised the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.

The deal was struck without the knowledge of the federation, too. But who knows, such overseas games might still materialise as some La Liga officials told The Washington Post at the time that they would even go to court over the matter:

Should we receive official notification from FIFA that they prohibit the match in the USA, we will take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) with urgency.

The Spanish players’ union is against that and the fans at home won’t like it. From a business perspective it is still a reasonable thing to do. Playing abroad – and not only in a rather uncompetitive friendly mode – could well enhance fan engagement, viewer numbers and eventually popularity and measurable revenue for the federation, the league and the teams.

Ligue 1 draws attention to China

The US is one big market for European clubs or leagues, China is another. That can be seen, if you look at plans that the French Ligue 1 is presenting right now. From the 2020/21 season on, kick off times on a Sunday shall change in order to reach more people in China. French professional football league (LFP) chief executive, Didier Quillot, said:

In terms of marketing, we need to have different content based on storytelling. We need to start to develop content more dedicated to the Ligue 1 region, trying to invent new way of storytelling of Ligue 1. Today we are catching up with Serie A (Italian top flight) in terms of value and attractiveness. We need to catch up with Bundesliga (German top flight), but it is a long journey,

as was reported by SportsPro Media. That’s why one match from the French first tier will start at 1PM CET from 2020 on. Such a kick off time had already been scheduled for the match between OGC Nice and Paris Saint-Germain in march – with Quillot once again commentating:

A year after the opening of the French football office in Beijing, the scheduling of a big Ligue 1 Conforama fixture for prime time across Asia constitutes a new milestone for getting to know the French league. This big step will give Ligue 1 Conforama even higher exposure to an Asian public who are becoming increasingly interested in the spectacle offered up by French clubs.

And the Ligue 1, which has drawn more attention not least due to PSG’s rise to a European superpower having the likes of Neymar, Mbappé or Buffon in their ranks, is presented to Asian audiences more and more. Just like La Liga, the Ligue 1 has staged the French Super Cup abroad this season, but for the tenth consecutive time. It had been played in Canada, the US, China, Austria, even Gabon etc. The press was certainly present then.

So, despite a lot of resistance, the scheduling of games in Europe’s top leagues might change more and more over the course of the next few years as global audiences want to be given better access. For the federations and leagues that means more money. Super Cup games will be more of a marketing exhibition, while kick off times will surely be even more apportioned in order to make broadcasting in other countries more lucrative. Eventually, we might even see La Liga games in the US; and if that happens, other leagues could follow suit. Such a development will only be the natural consequence of a football ecosystem that has a self-image as an agglomeration of global brands. And fans and supporters will not fade away, even though marketing machineries control the preconditions for their beloved sports increasingly. It just won’t be the same experience anymore, once the moneymakers have left the the image of mere football clubs vying for superiority in the shadows.

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VAR – The System Gives and Takes Millions

We’ve seen VAR in action quite often now, but rarely in such breathtaking fashion as in the Man City vs Tottenham CL quarter-final. It tipped the scales – with financial consequences.

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Ecstatic joy, then intangible disappointment. City fans were left devastated after VAR had overruled what looked like their winner in one of the most thrilling Champions League quarter-finals the competition has seen for a while. Raheem Sterling, in world-class form for weeks and months, had just given Man City a 5:4 lead on aggregate, completing his hattrick on the night and a remarkable comeback after losing at Tottenham’s new ground and going behind in the second leg as well. The game itself, tied on 2:2 after only eleven minutes, was incredible. But the the finish and all the drama related to it was overwhelming and cruel at the same time, yet somehow novel in the way it was build up. For VAR had a hand in both goals that decided this game – only that one wasn’t going to stand. These decisions are worth millions.

A fair way to decide a game?

The decisions of the VAR may not always be of such magnitude or significance. But even in the other Champions League quarter-final of the night, Porto vs Liverpool, the first goal was only awarded – it was initially chalked off for offside – after VAR gave the green light. And it was awarded rightly so. It ended all of Porto’s hopes, though and took their momentum away.

In the Man City vs Tottenham game the system took control twice. In the 73rd minute, Spurs were in desperate need of a goal and, a bit out of the blue, they got it as Fernando Llorente somehow bundled home from a corner. Amid the celebrations, referee Cüneyt Çakır got the information that VAR would make a check – and he even went to the pitchside monitor to analyse the scene himself, because there was a hint that Llorente had touched the ball with his wrist in the slightest of contacts before it hit his hip and went in. After a long check, Çakır eventually gave the goal as he had before. After that, City attacked the Spurs defence again and again without finding a breaktrough. Then came the 93rd minute, in which Sterling “scored“. Without VAR, City would have been awarded that goal and would now face Ajax Amsterdam in the semis. But VAR entered the CL in the knockout stages this season and it intervened to righly disallow the goal as Bernardo Silva had directed a mishit pass from Eriksen into the path of Agüero – who was offside.

The outcome of the game was emotionally challenging, even for fans not connected to either side. Yet, it also has consequences for the clubs. Man City’s dream of achieving an unprecedented quadruple is over, while Tottenham can still dream of winning a first ever Champions League crown. Plus, going through and going out decides over revenue the teams take from the competition.

Fine margins and big differences

Reaching the latter stages of the Champions League means more income for the current campaign. This season, the competition will distribute 2,04 billion Euro. Any team in the group stages pockets 15,25 million Euro, a win is worth another 2,7 million. But the big money is in the knockout stages. You’ll earn 9,5 million for the round of the last 16, another 10,5 for the quarter-final and 12 million for the semis. The final itself adds 15 million to the contestants’ accounts and the winner gets another four million, while playing in the UEFA Super Cup gets you 3,5 million with a further million in sight for the winner of that game.

This means, Man City miss out on quite a few revenue opportunities due to the VAR decisions; not that they couldn’t compensate it. For Tottenham Hotspur, a team and club in the ascendant for years, it means more money to spend or reinvest. These big Premier League clubs might consider those amounts peanuts, but Ajax could think differently – and imagine a small club getting there. And picture it: such fine margins make the difference. Agüero was ruled offside, but only because Silva just about touched the ball from Eriksen. Llorente however might have touched the incoming ball with the hair on his wrists and maybe another ref would have disallowed the goal. Yes, these decisions have been there ever since. But with games in competitions like the Champions League and winning them being so worthwile and with the introduction of VAR, that very system does impose itself as a discerning and decisive feature.

Some say it’s for the better, because it is fair – most of the time. For it still needs people to run it and they can make mistakes, too. It will probably get better with time, but the debate about it will go on. What strikes one as odd, though, is that the Europa League doesn’t have VAR. Eintracht Frankfurt took advantage of that in their quarter-final comeback win over Benfica Lisbon, as their first goal was scored from an offside position. To keep the football ecosystem fair, VAR should be used in every competition.

The money and the feelings

Spurs have pocketed just over 60 million Euro from the Champions League last season, when they went out in the round of the last 16. That amount is going to be bigger this year. Thanks to their great performances and a little bit to the VAR as well. The revenue might be a factor that isn’t always focused when the VAR is discussed, but it’s a pivotal component. Seemingly, the emotional aspect of football outweighs such thinking, that is the main objective for clubs as brands, at times. Interruptions like in the Man City vs Tottenham game can be annoying and they can surely dash emotions – at least for the moment. But the VAR is also able to create a whole new level of emotional roller coasters.

We’ve seen that now, dreams crumble, frustration vanishes within the blink of an eye, when the screen in the stadium tells you about the decision by VAR. It could decide over managers’ futures, over revenue streams and transfer money, over comeback of thes season or another year of pain. In the end, VAR is just a system to aid the referees and it’s only a small part of the game. Is it fair, is it authentic, is it good for football? Jury’s still out, but it’s certainly a game changer – and there to stay.


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Are Friendlies the Next Big Revenue Driver for Clubs?

The high-profile friendly tournament is gradually turning into a marketing and revenue machine. So, are friendlies having more economical impact than the odd matchday?

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The launch of this year’s International Champions Cup once again brought up the most high-profile clubs in the world: Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Juventus Turin, Arsenal London, Benfica Lissabon, Manchester United and the list goes on. Orchestrated since 2013, the tournament is played in various locations across the world, from New York to Singapore. Now, the lucrative pre-season schedule will be brought to many more fans as the host organisation Relevent Sports Group have brokered a two-year deal with IMG Media to distribute the games even better. So, apart from selling countless tickets, the media coverage of the top games should be more comprehensive. Are friendlies, of all things, turning into an unmissable event of economic significance?

Pre-Season: From spreading the brand to the battle of giants

A decade or so ago, football clubs had got used to an annual pre-season tour, which offered the chance to find new fans in different countries and cultures and play games against local teams. These tours brought them to Asia, Africa, North and South America, to different corners of Europe and have always helped to grow their brand. Nowadays, though, or since the inauguration of the International Champions Cup, the odd games against fellow European clubs that resided in the same area have become more of an obligation. Last season, the tournament that is hosted by the Relevent Sports Group (RSG) staged 27 games across 22 cities and sold over a million tickets for them – a record, as SportsPro Media report.

The very same outlet now refers to a deal between the RSG and IMG Media, which will see the latter sell the rights to watch the games globally. Although the US, Mexico and Central America are excluded for some reason. The ICC managing director, Matthew Kontos, said:

Our global tournament needs an international partner to help reach our distribution goals and satisfy the viewing needs of soccer fans all over the world. IMG brings a unique expertise that makes them the ideal partner to continue to elevate the ICC.

Meanwhile, Michael Mellor, senior vice president of soccer at IMG Media, explained:

We look forward to working with Relevent Sports Group over the next two years and to increasing awareness of the ICC and ensuring the tournament is viewed as widely as possible across all forms of media platforms.

You can already purchase tickets for some mouthwatering clashes.

How much of a media event the ICC has become was clear to see at the launch of this season’s edition. Reknowned actor Jason Sudeikis was the host for the media-effective event.

The ICC even have their own online shop on their website, selling club merch aplenty. Tickets for the match between Atlético Madrid and Juventus at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, maybe a bit of a low-key stadium compared to the other places, start at 74 Euro. That means fans will have to pay quite a sum to see their favourite stars; unless they turn to streaming opportunities or other media, where IMG Media will possibly have helped distribute the games.

Financial picking season for the clubs

For the 2017 tournament, TotalSportek has published a list of payments for the clubs taking part. Real Madrid, Manchester United and the FC Barcelona were paid 20 million pound each for appearance alone, plus add-ons. Two years on, these payments will only be bigger.

Appearance fees for the ICC 2017, © TotalSportek

With that much at stake, and a much bigger media audience and attention to follow, can clubs even concentrate on their individual demands to prepare for a new season full of challenges, when maybe there’s a lot of new personnel or even a new manager?

It seems as though, with the International Champions Cup and similar obligations, clubs are turning traditional pre-season patterns into a marketing event ever more.

That isn’t reprehensible, for every club has to do that as a brand. And brands, other than a sports club, simply cannot afford something of an off-season. Therefore, they offer fans exclusive media content, special events and of course an entertaining and packed pre-season programme. In that respect, a well-organised and well-paid for pre-season could turn out to be of more importance than a single matchday. It might not be as significant in terms of where the team ends up in the season – but the presentation of the club’s brand in between such seasons is of bigger significance for the development of the club as a company. Eventually, for a lot of clubs pre-season is the time to reap the rewards for proper branding and it could be called picking season in terms of the heavy financial shuffles in the industry. A club cannot afford to miss that and fans get excited; but will they remain as they are, if all that big club super branding continues to overshadow what football once was all about?

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Spurs Revel in Opening of Their Stadium for the Ages

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has been officially opened. While Spurs will play their first game there soon, fans are already fascinated by a place to kick off a new era. One of success, they hope.

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Here it is. After so long, Tottenham will finally be home again in their very own stadium. Their U18s kicked off the first competitive match in bright sunlight, scored three and the A team will hope to replicate such a performance next Wednesday, when they play their first ever match, a London derby against Crystal Palace, in the scintillating, formidable arena.

To Dare Is To Do,

that’s the motto emblazoned on the walls of the stadium, which is so much more than just a football ground. While the Totteham fans are full of anticipation, they hope that they’re on the cusp of experiencing another step for their beloved club; with trophies following soon. In terms of marketing, revenue potential and sheer appeal, the Spurs have already got the world looking at them. Something they’d surely like to continue.

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Wembley wasn’t so bad, but …

It’s fair to say that Tottenham, a team so strongly associated to their old ground White Hart Lane, have been far from underperforming at the temporarily home Wembley. That very venerable stadium, although rebuilt too, is one of the most impressive ones in the world, let alone England. And it sure has seen some world-class performances from Harry Kane, Dele Alli Christian Eriksen and all those players that have blossomed under the guidance of Mauricio Pochettino. For they’ve defeated Chelsea twice there this season and have recently dispatched a promising Borussia Dortmund with three goals to nil in the Champions League proper.

Additionally, Tottenham have established themselves as a Champions League team and are getting closer to the latter stages of cup competitions as well. A trophy has eluded them for too long, though. Therefore, they hope the new stadium will give them the boost they need to thrive even more, with silverware at the end of the road.

Where are Spurs going with their new stadium?

On one hand, silverware is what great teams are measured by. José Mourinho may be past his best, but his assumption that titles make teams and subsequently managers, and players, for eternity is not a long shot. On the other hand, the club and brand Tottenham Hotspur certainly have more existential goals. For they are longing for additional awareness around the globe, new supporters and in a financial way, too. Revenue is as important as fans’ data and digital affection these days.

Those are reasons, why the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which will host NFL games as well, is a modern money-making machine, made for the football experience that merges 21st century entertainment demands and more traditional sports experiences. Yes, you can still have your pint, only it might be served at the longest bar in the UK with 87 metres. Tottenham fan Chris Cowlin had a look. An own brewery exists as well.

And for sure, you’re invited to check out the club store to get dressed or get your hands to the latest Spurs merch. The club’s financial ambitions show, if you consider it is the biggest fanshop of any Premier League club.

Not only Burger King knows that bigger is better sometimes, so Tottenham have also created the biggest single tier stand at the south end of the stadium. It acommodates roughly 17.599 fans who are very close to the pitch. Spurs are hoping to recreate an atmosphere like at Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park, where the famed Yellow Wall can suck the ball in for their team.

The capacity of 61.559 will also make the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium the biggest club arena in London. Two pitches are interchangeable, one of real grass, one artificial – and it only takes 25 minutes. That’s great news if you plan to rent out your football ground for other lucrative events. While the pricing is indeed demanding, starting at about 800 pounds for the cheapest season ticket, visitors will have so many things to discover. As we had reported last year, there’s a Sky Walk to give attendants the opportunity to climb the outer stadium wall. There are cafés, conference and banquet rooms, the whole venue is open for 365 days a year.

We are creating, what we believe, will be the finest stadium anywhere in the world for spectators, visitors and the wider community, delivering a major new landmark for Tottenham and London.

said Tottenhams website at the time. Even for those who are tied to their smart devices or simply love the most modern technology, there are great features. Together with partner Hewlett Packard, Tottenham have created several highlights. Mobile ticketing for easier access, cashless paymens, WiFi everywhere aren’t that special, yet nice to have. Apart from that, beacons mean the way to the next pie, shop or your seat is easy to find within the app, push notifications offer fans personalised interactions as customised communication becomes more relevant for the experience – which will also mean more matchday income, for sure.

The first test has fans fascinated

Some feared that Tottenham could lose a bit of their identity with this new stadium, and that they could be about to alienate their die hard fans for more celebrity audiences. Yet, the first game in the arena, a victorious match for the Tottenham U18s, saw nearly 30.000 fans arrive. To say they were pleased would be an understatement. Right now, with the first real Premier League encounter beckoning, all is well, one can assume.

Especially youngster J’Neil Lloyd Bennett won’t forget the occasion, since he scored the first ever goal at the stadium.

Spurs’ new home will need some time before it can be mentioned in the same breath as Old Trafford, Anfield or even White Hart Lane. For it will need experiences, wins, defeats, great goals, drama, tears, ecstasy and passion. The stage is certainly set.

Tottenham even have integrated a lot of club folklore in the venue, naming a restaurant the White Hart or acknowledging their 200 official supporters clubs on the walls.

We are nearly crying because our dream became true,

said Pochettino at the test opening, a man who epitomises the promising Spurs course right now so significantly.

Mauricio Pochettino speaking at Spurs’ new home, © Tottenham Hotspur

Not all fans are quite convinced yet. Pochettino and his team have work to do, as have chairman Daniel Levy and the club. But once the grand opening against Crytal Palace on April 3rd gets underway – which will be a very pricey game incidentally –, Tottenham Hotspur’s journey to a new and forward-looking existence as a club of international standing, with a home every club could be proud of, starts for real.

There are no guarantees, but there seldom are in football and business alike. To dare is to do – and Spurs have entered the land of the brave. It could turn out to be a defining moment in the whole sports industry.

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The Curious Case of DC Comics v FC Valencia – Who Owns the Bat Logo?

The FC Valencia celebrate 100 years, but the bat in their famed club logo has DC Comics complaining as it arguably resemles their Batman trademark too much.

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It must go down as one of the most absurd controviersies in modern brand marketing involving an old and proud football club. Spain’s reknowned FC Valencia will have to brace themselves for a legal battle with American powerhouse DC Comics, since the latter accuse the club of an infringement of their own famed Batman trademark. The dispute resurfaced, when Valencia launched a special bat logo for their anniversary and DC filed an official complaint to the European Union Intellectual Property Office. It’s just that the FC Valencia sported a logo with a bat many years before DC registered a trademark for their superhero. And is there really a problem with more or less similar bats in a football crest and in a comic universe? If so, it seems a lot of clubs would have to think about it.

Controversy about FC Valencia’s logo and DC Comics’ Batman

The case is quite simple. DC Comics think their logo of batman, which made its first appearance in 1939, is used without authorisation by the Spanish top club FC Valencia. That very dispute had been there a few years back and it now comes back to the fore as the club celebrate a hundred years since their founding.

Even a century back, it’s clear to see, the club had a bat integrated in their logo – and they probably weren’t thinking about trademark matters at all. A hundred years forward, Valencia created a new logo which emphasises the bat more and which shall be used to lead the club into a new era as a brand.

The new FC Valencia logo, © FC Valencia

The bat has belonged to the city of Valencia’s heraldry since the Medieval Age. Relating to this connection, the club state on their website that the logo is there

to accompany us in this new era that begins, the icing on the most beautiful crest in the world. It represents what we are and where we are going. An eternal sentiment.

Now the American brand DC Comics, would like the club to relinquish their new logo and have taken legal advice as several media, such as El Confidential report. The overseas brand had registered the Batman logo as a trademark decades ago, yet, are that unhappy about Valencia’s new logo they threaten to sue them in the EU.

The Batman logo has a value of brand recognition for DC.

Their official complaint at the EUIPO, though, has right now led to a so-called cooling off. According to El Confidential, that allows the Spanish club to sport the badge at least until October 2020; and they can find an arrangement, should DC insist on their stance. Sources of the Spanish publisher think otherwise and predict that DC will eventually let go of the case. Especially, because the FC Valencia will play hardball themselves as they don’t believe you can have a monopoly for the use of bats in your logo.

We are not going to stop using the bat because DC Comics says it, there is no commercial brand that has a worldwide exclusive on bats. When this club played with a bat in the chest, in the United States they were chasing bison.

said a spokesperson of the club rather polemically. Not for the first time have DC approached the FC Valencia, in 2013 they also objected a new crest for the club assuming it would infringe their very own trademark. The BBC reported on that and the club later abandoned plans for a newly-created logo. This time around, it doesn’t look like Valencia are giving in as brand awareness, tied to a modern logo, is becoming ever more important for successful football clubs.

Resemblances are always there

As crazy as it seems, defending your own trademark is a very important measure for big brands these days. But, where is the problem with the FC Valencia selling merch and shirts with their unique bat club logo and DC exploiting their comic universe for gaming and cinemas? Yes, that’s a simple thought. And well, both brands do sell merchandising products, but it’s not like they do have the same logo upon it. Still, who would be confused in the different contexts? It looks like DC are flexing their muscles – but they could end up being defeated despite their heroes’ superpowers. For a reasonable eye will see that there are always resemblances of football clubs’ crests and some other brands. A user on Imgur underlines that in a picturesque way.

It might even come to more of such disputes. But the clubs have often been there before the brands who think they can trademark or copyright certain simple visual patterns. Let’s hope the FC Valencia prevail representative for all the proud clubs around the world with their reknowned, famed and wonderful logos. But using those more and more for commercial reasons will have them in need of making sure of their own trademark protections. For a brand – and that goes for football brands these days more than ever – needs a recognisable logo. In Social Media, on their kits and certainly in the eyes of their old and future fans and followers. They shouldn’t forget, though, that some simplistic designs are just not made to be claimed for only one entity.

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How Real Betis Aim for World-Class – Quite Literally

Real Betis Sevilla may be a middle-class club in La Liga with the odd appearance in Europe. But their pledge to become climate neutral makes them pioneers for sustainable club development off the pitch.

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Honestly, what’s your best memory thinking of Spanish traditional club Real Betis Sevilla? The club is certainly not too well known outside of Spain; the most recent footage you probably have seen was Leo Messi’s wonder goal against them a few days back. Apart from their decent performances in La Liga and at least the Europa League group stage, the club have already proved their innovative approach concerning off-field matters. Now, Real Betis have committed to becoming climate neutral. Which would make them the first club in Spain to be just that and one of the first few clubs to take sustainability to another level.

Emulating the Forest Green Rovers status

When it comes to climate neutrality, sports and football do have a long way to go. Yet, there are clubs that already operate on an officially climate neutral level. And La Liga’s Real Betis Sevilla, also known as Real Betis Balompié, aim to become one of them. So far, the English fourth tier club Forest Green Rovers are a prime example for sustainable operating. They have 100 per cent green energy, are fully vegan, use electro mobility and are the first club to ever become climate neutral according to none less than the UN.

As of the beginning of March, Real Betis have officially joined the
Climate Neutral Now initiative of UN Climate Change. By doing that, they commit themselves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to compensate the rest. Furthermore, the club will become a platform to raise awareness for the need for a change in climate politics and policies. Real Betis’ millions of fans across the globe should therefore be amongst the first to acknowledge the club’s quest for a better world – and that alone should stand the Béticos in good stead, especially in relation to social attention.

Real Betis will become Spain’s first top tier club to become climate neutral and emulate the achievement of Forest Green Rovers, a team that by coincidence or not, also sport green shirts. On Betis’ home kits we find Green Earth from Avalon Life as the main sponsor as well, a project to commercialise endangered areas in Central America via blockchain, in order to keep them from further burdening the environment.

Ángel Haro, president of the club, said about the coming projects for Real Betis:

Since the beginning, Real Betis Balompié has been about its family, its members and fans. We strive to ensure that they feel Betis represents them and supports them, just as much as they support us. Taking action on climate is also about them, it’s about our family. We understand that climate change is a threat to the livelihoods and the wellbeing of everyone on the planet, and we are doing our part.

And the Global Climate Action at the UN appreciate the committment a lot, as their manager Niclas Svenningsen emphasised:

We are encouraged to see Real Betis align its business with the climate agenda. We are inspired by their focus on serving their community, engaging their fans, and working together with others in a respectful, responsible manner. We are happy to have them as one of the signatories of our Climate Neutral Now initiative

What else are Real Betis doing to become somewhat of a world-class club?

Climate change is an important matter, but how can a football club oblige this aim? First of all, Real Betis will provide renewable energy for its new sports city, plus advanced waste collection and treatment systems. Additionally, a lot of further trees shall breathe more life into the environment. Smart illumination systems will be installed in the stadium
Benito Villamarín and single-use plastic shall be drastically reduced.

These measures to become climate neutral are an important step for Real Betis on the way to becoming a widely acclaimed club. While things might not have gone the way the fans would have wanted in the Europa League, where Stade Rennes was responsible for their downfall, they’re still fighting to get back to European football next season. And to stay present in Europe is important for the club as a brand. As their sustainable approach will see them getting repect, other aspects have to be considered in order to generate financial revenue at the same time. Thankfully, Real Betis are also frontrunners in the realms of e-commerce, since they’re one of several clubs that own a customised club shop on Amazon.

Real Betis partner with Amazon, © Real Betis Sevilla

So, after all, the internationalisation strategies of Real Betis put them in a bracket with pioneers in their very aspects of climate neutrality or lucrative e-commerce solutions. Their Social Media accounts could use a push, though, but the attention from their newest and laudable scheme will probably help there, too. Let’s see whether Joaquín, Sergio Canales, Marc Bartra and Co. can achieve big things on the pitch in the near future. Their club has certainly made sure that there will be an awareness for even more urgent matters on this world than football, believe it or not: the future of our planet.

Any club should aim to at least optimise their management of single-plastic use and have the goal to become climate neutral. Real Betis and the Forest Green Rovers are great examples and even the best clubs in the world can learn from them. Whoever is interested, may also have a look at the UN Climate Neutral Now initiative.

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Fans Won’t Say I’m Lovin’ It – O’Higgins McDonald’s Kit is Marketing Gone Wrong

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They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Yet, the new kits from Chilean Club Deportivo O’Higgins are really something else. Not only do they have different sponsors on the chest, near their neck and even on the thighs, but their back numbers are quite clearly designed like chips from McDonald’s – that have had a dip in the ketchup. If that is not unmistakable for anyone, there’s even a bag of chips with the renowned logo beneath it. Some might say it’s clever marketing. By the look of it, it’s rather not.

Breaking new grounds: But that’s not as easy anywhere

The look of the shirts from O’Higgins, who ply their trade in the Chilean Primera División, is certainly striking.

So every fan will probably think about the world-famous fast food chain and maybe even having a few chips. But even if that was the case, the club cannot be too happy with their outfit as it is touted as one of the ugliest kits around right now. Sports journalist Matias Grez, who spotted it, surely sees it that way.

Being pink is not so much a novelty now, nor is it inappropriate. The combination, though, is quite terrible. And in times, when native advertising is wanted from users, viewers and supporters around, this doesn’t seem like the shrewdest move. At least not for the club itself.

But probably they’ve received some handy extra money from the fast food giants. McDonald’s on the other hand won’t care too much about the look of the kit. They will be visible much more in the Chilean league and now in the media coverage, too. Furthermore, some viewers might feel a sudden hunger for chips appear – and that is always the right effect for a sponsor, as long as a few of those viewers get themselves some.

Whether one likes it or not, the chips numbers are something special that’s going kind of viral. And it might therefore pay off in the end. Yet, experiments like that are not easily doable in every league. In the German Bundesliga, for example, the numbers on the back must consist of one colour, be positioned in narrow measurements and, most of all, may not refer to a sponsor. So, if any brand marketer already thought about implementing a similar stroke, it will not be that easy. There are other ways for innovative marketing, branding has to be coming via audio services like Spotify, via Social Media like Instagram or it has to be in-app. Sometimes, though, a simple scheme offers great attention as well. A pat on the back from McDonald’s might be on the cards for O’Higgins – or a pat on the chips, shall we say? That shirt certainly had us talking; as a brand, you can’t ask for more, really.

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