Last year, the UEFA Champions League final passed the Super Bowl as the most watched sporting event worldwide. While the ratings for this year’s Champions League final were less than spectacular here in the United States, this global poll position garners a closer look at their approach to sports sponsorship.
One of my favorite things about the sport of soccer is their clean style in regards to sponsorship, both from the teams and the networks that broadcast matches. As the ball is almost constantly in play, most of their lack of advertisements is forced by the nature of the game, but they could always opt to go NASCAR on us and bury us in a pitch full of logos.
I watched two soccer matches in their entirety on Saturday, the Champions League final featuring FC Barcelona v Manchester United and a regular season MLS match with the Colorado Rapids hosting Sporting Kansas City, so I was able to draw comparisons between a premiere sporting event and soccer stateside. Being that the Champions League final had a global audience, I found the diversity of sponsorships fascinating. I also found it very interesting that the Champions League final had less sponsorship than the MLS match, despite having hundreds of millions more viewers.
Here’s a closer look at the sponsorships that could be seen nationally on Fox this weekend during the UEFA Champions League final match between FC Barcelona and Manchester United (country of origin):
* Mastercard / Maestro (United States) – notice the bilingual approach from Mastercard targeting Spanish-speaking fans of FC Barcelona.
* UniCredit (Italy)
* PS3 (Japan)
* Sony 3D (Japan)
* Ford (United States)
* Heineken (Netherlands)
That’s it – six brands on a rotational basis. Sony actually grabbed 1/3 of the available spots by advertising both PS3 and Sony 3D. Sony also had the only digital signage that could be seen during score updates.
Team Kits (jersey sponsorships)
* UNICEF (United Nations) – Barcelona’s famous non-profit sponsor, which was the biggest before Sporting KC gave LIVESTRONG complimentary stadium naming rights earlier this year.
* AON (United States)
Commercials and untelevised portions of the stadium notwithstanding, I counted a total of eight sponsorships.
If the world’s most popular sporting event can get by with just eight sponsorships, I can think of one or two American sports franchises that could learn from the Champions League final. Teams can make as much money selling a limited number of sponsorships at a premium as they can over-selling their inventory to brands at a discount. Some teams do it well, but most do it poorly (see the Detroit Tigers).