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Sports sponsorships can mean big visibility – and big business – for brands. Or they can mean big headaches when the face of your sponsorship behaves badly. With the UEFA Champions League in the midst of the Quarter Finals, let’s break down some pros and cons, using examples from European football.

Pro: Event Sponsorships Are Limited, Thus Elite

Competition is hard enough without having to compete with a huge field of sponsors all vying for attention during major events.

Luckily, the Champions League only allows eight companies to sponsor the event, with specifications around how they are allowed to advertise, and priority access for television ads during matches. This way all sponsors receive maximum exposure, without any one being favored.

This year’s official sponsors are:

Obviously, such partnerships don’t come cheap. It’s imperative you use social listening and sentiment analysis to ensure your target audience is among those following the matches, or you’re wasting your resources.

You also have to use such social insights to determine campaign and content directions for best return on your sponsorship investment.

Pro: Team Jerseys Get a Lot of Press

For brands who miss the opportunity to sponsor the event overall – or who want to go a different route – having your name and logo on team jerseys is another way to go. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Sponsoring a team’s “kit” – as Puma will soon do with Manchester City and several teams under the City Football Group umbrella
  2. Nab the coveted “additional” spots on a jersey beyond the kit manufacturer; there are regulations about how many names and logos may appear, and when, but judging by recent images, there’s room for a few

Manchester City has several partners on their website, but only three, Nike, Etihad Airways, and Nexen Tire appear on their current jerseys

Nike and Etihad Airways appear on the front, with Nexen Tire on the left sleeve

It’s worth noting that while Nike has been the Manchester City sponsor for the past five years, it’s been reported to be “not the most lucrative” – with the new Puma deal expected to be “a much more financially rewarding partnership.”

This is a good reminder that attaining a sponsorship isn’t the end of your work as a brand. Following and acting on social sentiment and social listening insights ensures the relationship with your sponsor is valuable enough to continue.

Con: Not All Brands Are Welcome

Part of brands’ due diligence must include understanding any regional restrictions on sponsorship categories. For example, the Heineken Cup is called the H Cup in France, due to that country’s restrictions around advertising alcohol.

Many regions restrict the advertising of alcohol and tobacco products, so it’s important to be aware of this if alcohol, for instance, is your primary brand. If your brand includes others that aren’t restricted under the same umbrella, then you would have to substitute one of them in regions where restrictions apply – and have a plan for messaging and engagement in those locales.

Using geofencing in your social listening is a great way to understand which brands would succeed best from region to region, and why.

Pro: Influencers Abound

In addition to fans of European football around the globe, every team has a roster of players with the potential to be influential in raising your brand’s profile on a number of channels.

Looking at People under Popular Items gives you a sense of who’s being discussed on social:

Popular Items (People) for search terms “Champions League Quarter Finals”

Of course, you can’t stop there. You need to understand what’s driving the conversation, the sentiment behind it, and whether the engagement happening is a result of influencer appeal – or something else.

Premier League club Liverpool and Brazil national team midfielder Roberto Firmino may not be dominating the conversation (though he is on the list of People), but his 8.9 million Instagram followers still might make him a fit for your brand.

This is where things are completely subjective. Only you can decide if a given influencer will connect to your audience – and AI-powered sentiment analysis is how.

Con: The One Bad Apple Effect

It’s also important to remember that dominating the conversation isn’t always a good thing. For example, Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo was recently fined by the UEFA for lewd moves while celebrating after the team’s Champions League win over Atletico Madrid.

Not a huge deal, perhaps, but just an example of how the individuality of influencers can sway public perception and potentially impact brands in the process. Imagine a sponsor like Disney and you can see how something seemingly small can be a problem simply by being out of alignment with core brand values.

And for any brand, what happens when bigger issues make headlines?

This is why it’s important to vet influencers carefully – and, in the case of an entire team, to remember that each player is an extension of your brand if you choose to put your name on their jerseys.

Find the Love and Win

With $2 billion at stake across the various stages of the tournament, sponsorships are key to Champions League success. Ensuring they’re successful for you comes down to understanding your audience, what they care about, and whether that social love will translate into business for your brand.

You shouldn’t even think of sponsoring the matches or a team without that data. With it, however, you just might make it to the World Cup.

Want to see social sentiment at work? Get in touch and we’ll show you how to explore sponsorship options.

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