Marketing: The Difference Between X & 60% of X - Ben Wells

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

ben-wellsWow, there are a lot of rightsholders out there looking for sponsor deals at the moment. Most of the conversations I have - either first or second hand - are pretty similar: "we're looking for X but we'll take two thirds of X". I can empathise with a lot of industry colleagues because, especially in this market, they're all selling essentially the same proposition, speaking to the same brands and are expected to deliver results without the tools to do their jobs properly.

The recent deal between Manchester United and Chevrolet has raised the stakes for the majority of FAPL clubs. I know of at least one Chairman whose response to the deal was, "well if they're getting that, we are worth this." The pressure that puts on his team to deliver a deal at "this" level is unrealistic because it fails to understand the state of the market or how potential buyers determine what deals are "worth" to them. Ultimately, what you're selling is only worth what someone is willing to pay.

The issue for many rightsholders is that they are just doing the same thing that they've been doing for years. The phenomenal commercial success that United have enjoyed hasn't just happened overnight - they've invested in people and put them on the ground and coupled with the club's brand profile and some spurious fan statistics, have reaped the rewards. The reaction from the majority of clubs appears to me to have been to question why they aren't achieving similar results, rather than asking how.

I had a similar issue at Chelsea. United always set the benchmark in terms of commercial success but we had to recognise that we were a different proposition: different brand, different history and had a different story to tell. Agreeing local sponsorships then was impossible because we had no local footprint: ultimately over and above the fact that "we were Chelsea", what could we offer to a potential buyer? The answer lay in taking a different approach and hence we took the view that we needed to create that local footprint.

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