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How to take the pain out of sports endorsements

The Integrity Club’s Neil Meredith on how you can maximise footballer brand partnerships.

Having been in and around brand licensing for a couple of decades, I have seen some significant changes such as the explosion in digital and the remarkable increase in the properties that are available. It’s fair to say the 80/20 rule is becoming more apparent in consumer brands licensing than ever. How do you get into the top two inches of all the charts and stay there?

Among all the changes it’s clear there are some key constants that underpin the sector. Property owners will always want to extend their brand to a wider audience of consumers and sell more products while ensuring that their brand isn’t damaged by a licensor, an agent or a channel partner.

Market stats estimate the sports marketing sector revenues at just under £150 billion with football being 44% of that total. At The Integrity Club we help brands with high profile partnerships in all forms of entertainment, but our core business is sport and within that our specialism is football.

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As a brand owner it’s clear that endorsements carry risk as well as reward especially in the single athlete sector. What happens if they don’t perform? What if they have a PR disaster? What happens if they change the team they play for? What if they go rogue on social media?

The major part of our offering is the insight we provide in helping and guiding brands to work out whether sports personalities would be the best fit for their business objectives. Whether it a tactical campaign or a more strategic longer term brand ambassador programme we can advise on who would be the best fit and why.

We are most likely to recommend a personality linked to football first because we feel passionately that the world’s most popular game will always have someone for you. Maximising the opportunities with footballers is now being done very cleverly with Beckham, Ronaldo, Neymar and Messi. If you select the right individual you have the ability to tap into the associations with their club, their existing brand partners and, of course, their heritage and nationality.

We have seen a significant rise in our offering being needed, especially with the onslaught of social media demands and digital audiences being so disruptive. Using our lateral thinking approach we were able to help a high profile video games company tap into a younger more family orientated audience by proposing that they partnered with a female footballer that had an authenticity in video games.

By using Kelly Smith MBE, who was Arsenal FC Ladies captain, we added a new dimension to a launch campaign that hasn’t been seen before. Likewise as part of our partnership with Call of Duty we worked very closely with Arsenal FC’s digital team – we helped a group of COD YouTubers get a guided tour of the Emirates stadium and a Q&A with our client Hector Bellerin.

By working with all the digital teams in a coordinated collaborative way we all gained huge exposure on digital and just as much in traditional media channels.

5 Key useful takeaways

  • Don’t just chase the headline numbers – Far too often we see brands purely chasing eye balls and we feel we can help connect and engage the right type of consumers or channel partners with your brand so they are more likely to call to action. Don’t underestimate how sports talent can help you develop channel partners too at events, roadshows, store opening’s or networking events.
  • Selecting the right talent is crucial but also do your due diligence on their management team – we know most of the talent management companies so can guide you through this process.
  • Tie in key milestone payments around performance criteria – It’s our role to ensure whether it’s a social campaign or an event the talent over delivers on their obligations to you both contractually and morally.
  • Train and educate your talent like you would your own staff – We do this for you. We ensure that the talent becomes an authentic advocate for your product not just an expensive mannequin.
  • Don’t be put off by bar chit chat about footballers and their agents being expensive and hard to work with – That’s where we come in. We have spent the past three years educating players and their management teams on the benefits of working with the right brands in the right way. It’s not always about the money upfront but more about making 2+2=5 for the brand and the player. Our primary objective is for both parties to want to renew and work together again.

Neil Meredith is founder and director of The Integrity Club. A former professional footballer, Neil has experience across the technology, video games and brand licensing sectors. He can be contacted by clicking here.

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