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Has Football Sponsorship Been Affected by COVID-19?

Friday Jan 22, 2021

 COVID-19 has had a seismic impact on football in general in 2020. Matches in large part have been played out in front of empty stadia, and on the few occasions that fans have been allowed in as part of a trial, the atmosphere has been eerie and subdued.

 While teams are undoubtedly missing their fans' presence at games, and the clubs are missing the money they spend on their matchday experience, COVID-19 has also had a drastic impact on football sponsorship since the start of the year. In this post, we take a look at exactly how football sponsorship has been affected by COVID-19.

 Loss in revenue

 The English Premier League's clubs have been financially devastated by COVID-19. Deloitte's study predicted that teams were due a permanent revenue loss of £500million in their 2019/20 accounts due to the pandemic, which included rebates to broadcasters and the loss of matchday revenue from fans. This was on the back of a record year, where revenues topped £5billion for the first time.

 In addition to the lost revenue from the matchday experience and sports broadcasters, sports marketing agency Two Circles predicted that the overall global sponsorship spending this year could suffer a $17.2billion hit, with football to be significantly hit. As games have been cancelled, funding from the likes of biggest UK betting names and foreign bookmakers has been reduced, as punters have nothing to place bets on. While bookmakers have continued with their sponsorship deals, there is a risk that if game cancellations continue, these companies will end their sponsorships. Regardless of the breakdown, football sponsorship has been undoubtedly affected by the outbreak of COVID-19.

 New branding opportunities

 While revenue has been negatively impacted in many respects, there is a little cause for optimism for clubs playing their games in front of empty stadia. According to Nielsen Sports, commercial partners of clubs were set to receive additional revenue between £700,000 and £2million thanks to the branding on the wraps covering empty seats at the front of stadia.

 Moreover, a survey by the European Sponsorship Association found that 72% of brands are looking to extend their sponsorship rights with English Premier League clubs going into the 2021-22 season. While COVID-19 has drastically affected the way spectators enjoy football, it's clear from these statistics that sponsors still see massive value in supporting English Premier League football in particular, as it is the most widely watched league in the world and attracts viewers from all continents.

 The social responsibility of sponsors

 Another way that COVID-19 has affected football sponsorship is the public perception of brands associated with the sport. In another study by Nielsen, it was discovered that approximately half of the UK population have an increased interest in brands that have been socially responsible since the outbreak of COVID-19.

 Sports Media predicts that as a result of this shift in public perception toward sponsors' social responsibility, deal structures are likely to change in the near future. Sponsorship deals are more likely to include clauses covering unforeseen events such as pandemics, changes in the length of contracts, and more of an interest taken in the company's public and social image.

 It is clear that football sponsorship, like many other aspects of the game, has been affected by COVID-19, and we are likely to see more changes next year as fans return to grounds across the UK to support their teams.


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