The Business of Football

For any business to succeed, it must first be known. This fundamental task is a primary goal for entrepreneurs and marketers, beginning with building brand awareness.

What is Brand Awareness?

According to Google and Wikipedia, brand awareness refers to the extent to which customers can recall or recognize a brand under different conditions. It is one of the dimensions of brand knowledge within an associative network memory model. Simply put, brand awareness is the degree to which a target audience recognizes and remembers a product under various everyday circumstances.

Stages of Brand Awareness According to Philip Kotler

Philip Kotler outlines several stages of brand awareness. Initially, brands must attract their target audience and provide information about the business. Potential customers then move from mere awareness to wanting to know more about the product. Consumers research shortlisted brands by gathering information from various sources, leading to a purchase. Finally, satisfied customers show loyalty, retention, repurchase, and advocacy.

Strategies for Building Brand Awareness

Assuming we are managing a new brand planning to launch in France, we can explore how to prioritize investment in brand awareness strategies across three budget scenarios: over US$ 50 million, US$ 10 million, and US$ 1 million.

Budget Over US$ 50 Million

With a budget exceeding $50 million, the brand has significant flexibility and can pursue a variety of high-impact sponsorship opportunities. Securing naming rights for a major league, such as French Ligue 1, provides extensive exposure, given that Ligue 1’s title sponsorship with Uber Eats was valued at $37 million over two years. Another option is purchasing naming rights for a prominent stadium, ensuring continuous visibility and association with a major sports venue. Investing in shirt and sleeve sponsorship with top-tier clubs in Ligue 1 leverages the high viewership and attendance figures. Additionally, utilizing field boards and virtual advertising to maintain a constant presence during matches translates the exposure to equivalent advertising costs.

Budget of US$ 10 Million

With a $10 million budget, the brand needs to be strategic in selecting sponsorships that maximize exposure while staying within financial constraints. Focusing on mid-tier Ligue 1 teams, where sponsorship costs are lower but still provide significant visibility, is one approach. Allocating $2 million to $5 million for perimeter boards or virtual advertising during matches ensures steady exposure. Sponsoring awards like “Man of the Match” or engaging in fan-centric activities that foster brand interaction at a lower cost can also be effective. Investing in product placement during interviews and press conferences gains exposure through media coverage.

Budget of US$ 1 Million

With a limited budget of $1 million, the brand must focus on cost-effective strategies that still offer valuable exposure. Targeting lower-tier teams for sleeve sponsorships, which are more affordable but still visible during matches, is a smart choice. Allocating a portion of the budget for perimeter boards or virtual advertising in smaller venues or less prominent matches can provide good visibility. Engaging in fan engagement activities such as half-time quizzes or score predictions, providing branded prizes or merchandise, creates positive interactions with the brand. Utilizing a small percentage of the budget for product placement during press conferences ensures the brand is visible in media coverage.

Football Uniform Sponsorship

Football kits have become synonymous with substantial revenue generation for clubs, both from merchandising and corporate sponsorship. The exposure brands gain from having their logos on football jerseys is immense, considering the high number of match attendees and viewers. For instance, French Ligue 1 boasts an aggregate attendance of over 7 million and 200 million worldwide viewers, making it a significant platform for return on investment. Sponsorship is seen by businesses as a cost-effective way to enhance brand awareness, as consumers are likely to positively associate brands with the biggest football clubs. Moreover, these deals help companies improve customer relations by positioning them as trustworthy, globally recognized entities.

It’s crucial to understand the different types of uniform sponsorship available in football, specifically kit sponsorship (by brands like Adidas and Nike), shirt sponsorship, and sleeve sponsorship. This discussion will focus on shirt and sleeve sponsorships. Sleeve sponsorship is often more affordable than shirt sponsorship, making it an attractive option for brands with smaller budgets still interested in uniform sponsorship.

Given the vast audience that can see a brand through a football game—whether live in the stadium, on cable TV, or via social media—it’s logical for a brand with a modest budget to leverage Football Uniform Sponsorship for exposure. For example, a brand with a budget over $50 million can afford to sponsor top clubs in French Ligue 1, like the reigning and most dominant club in the region. With such a budget, investing around $30 million or more in uniform sponsorship is logical. Brands with a $10 million budget can target slightly below mid-table teams. Although the audience size may be smaller than for top-tier teams, exposure remains significant. A financial commitment between $1.5 million to $3 million should suffice. For a $1 million budget, brands should consider sleeve sponsorships or invest in other sports properties for more cost-effective and result-oriented brand awareness, rather than spending heavily on uniform sponsorship.

In conclusion, various brands across different industry sectors—ranging from airlines to beverages, beauty and hospitality, gambling, oil and gas, and finance—can sponsor a club’s uniform. The amount a brand is willing to pay determines the size and recognition of the club being sponsored. However, brands must also identify whether the product they are promoting is national, regional, or global, as unchecked growth can be risky.

Field of Play Advertising

Sports stadium and field advertising are universally prevalent across all levels of sports, offering a prime opportunity for brands to reach a large and diverse audience. The most common formats for this type of advertising are Field Boards (also known as perimeter boards) and Virtual Advertising (digital insertions in the form of boards, signage, or three-dimensional renderings).

For a brand with an advertising budget of around $1 million, allocating $150,000 to $300,000 for stadium advertising can offer endless creative possibilities to attract business. In a small French-town setting, for instance, a brand might sponsor a lower league team and display its business name on a weatherproof sign along the outfield fencing. Alternatively, the brand name could be added to a list of sponsors near the concession stand, where it would see significant foot traffic. This strategy is equally applicable at higher levels, as every sports stadium or field offers opportunities for sponsors to be recognized. Ads are ubiquitous in professional or semi-professional games, making them a familiar sight to attendees.

For larger brands with bigger budgets, advertisement space can be purchased from the various rights holders of the particular competition being played at the time. These rights holders, such as UEFA, FIFA, La Liga, FC Barcelona, and Chelsea, often sell field boards as part of their sponsorship packages. The value of these boards is typically calculated by equating their exposure during matches to the equivalent advertising cost. For example, if a brand’s field board is clearly visible for five minutes during a match and a 30-second commercial costs $100,000, the total equivalent value of the boards during that match would be $1 million (10 x 30-second ads = 5 minutes). If the team plays 100 matches a year with similar exposure, the annual value assigned to this asset would be $100 million. Thus, a company with a budget over $50 million can follow this model, while a company with a $10 million budget might allocate between $2 million to $5 million for field of play advertising.

Stadium advertising places a brand in front of thousands or even millions of potential customers. Once created, content can be reused throughout the season, reaching new audiences with each game or event. This form of advertising works continuously, day and night, without concerns about lighting or timing. It cannot be ignored, turned off, or discarded, ensuring maximum visibility. Stadium advertising reaches people immediately, regardless of geographical location, as games can display different ads across various channels worldwide.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored content, marked by phrases like “Brought to you by” or “Sponsored by,” is a powerful means of brand exposure in football. The current landscape presents a rich opportunity for sponsorship, with properties like UEFA selling rights to sponsor specific events such as “GOAL of the day” or “TOP SCORER of the tournament.” Larger brands can afford to buy exclusive sponsorship rights for these events, paying up to $20 million to have their brand associated with in-game awards. Brands with a smaller budget of around $10 million can sponsor awards like “Man of the Match” for several thousand dollars. For those with a $1 million budget, fan engagement sponsorships, such as rewarding fans with prizes or club merchandise through half-time quizzes or score predictions, are a viable option, typically valued at around $5,000 per game day.

Stadium Naming Rights

Stadium naming rights involve a financial transaction where a corporation, person, or entity purchases the right to name a facility, program, or event, typically for a defined period. This type of advertising offers a unique marketing property to promote products, services, and customer retention, or to increase market share. Naming rights give a brand the opportunity to place its name in front of millions of sports fans. If the sports team is popular and successful, this positive association can reflect on the brand. However, naming rights can be very expensive, and if the stadium does not have a global profile, the advertising impact may be limited to a national or regional sphere.

For smaller brands unable to afford naming an entire sports arena, negotiating to name part of the arena is an alternative. For example, Lexus named the Florida Panthers’ ice rink, while the stadium remained the BankAtlantic Center. Similarly, the Mall of America bought naming rights to the Minnesota Vikings’ playing field, while the stadium retained its original name.

In summary, a brand with a budget over $50 million can invest $50-$100 million to buy stadium naming rights for an extended period. Brands with a $10 million budget might sponsor a section of the stadium or a training ground for $2-$5 million. For a brand with a $1 million budget, such investments are likely out of reach and not financially feasible.

League Naming Rights

Similar to stadium naming rights, league or competition naming rights involve a brand purchasing the rights to name an entire tournament. This concept, though not widely used globally, has been adopted by more countries and sports to boost revenues and create exclusive premium properties. Given the high entry cost, only brands with substantial budgets can afford this type of sponsorship. For instance, French soccer’s Ligue 1 renewed its title sponsorship agreement with Uber Eats for $37 million over two years. This real-world example underscores the financial commitment required, making it clear that only brands with budgets exceeding $50 million can realistically participate in such sponsorship deals. Consequently, brands with smaller budgets would typically pass on this opportunity.

Other Branding Opportunities and Concessions

Interview Backdrops and Press Conference Tables

Brands can also explore advertising opportunities on interview backdrops and press conference tables. While the cost is not the primary concern, visibility varies depending on the enthusiasm of the rights holders for this marketing strategy. Common product placements include drinks, with brands like Coca-Cola placing their products prominently in press conferences. This strategy ensures visibility when players and officials interact with the media. Brands across all budget categories can afford this type of advertisement, with costs typically ranging between 2-5% of their budget, depending on the extent of utilization.

Stadium Concessions

Though not exposed to broadcasting, stadium concessions represent an important investment for food and beverage companies. Concession foods like hot dogs and cotton candy are integral to the fan experience. Operators must manage challenges such as long lines and wait times to maintain customer satisfaction and maximize sales. While concessions are not typically profitable in terms of brand awareness, they leave a lasting impression on attendees, creating a positive social bias towards the product. However, brands with limited budgets should not invest heavily in concessions, as the return on investment is less impactful compared to other forms of brand awareness.


The increasing diversity of the global fan base presents new opportunities for international brands to leverage the profile, appeal, and brand equity of leading football clubs. Football sponsorship investments have grown significantly, enhancing both the actual and perceived value to sponsors. Brands will closely monitor their sponsorship investments, balancing risks and realized returns. As brands grow and become more recognized among their target audiences, they will integrate awareness tools with other marketing assets to establish deeper engagement with consumers and customers.

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