IT’S MY birthday in February and I’ve told Mrs V just to get me a Boro shirt…
And, given the exciting and unique brand-building opportunity presented by Boro’s decision to sell their prime advertising to space on a month-by-month basis, here it is:
I’m thing of putting in a bid to buy February.
Having failed to secure a big name national sponsor and then fruitlessly worked their way down the list of potential regional backers – “those conversations have ultimately not progressed to a satisfactory conclusion for us” – Boro have opted for a radical approach and instead will hive it off in ten monthly packages.
That brings it back within the price range of smaller national companies working in niche markets, or local firms and organisations (and possibly even vibrant multi-media tabloid tub thumping rabble rousers with more money than sense) who see a synergy with the values of the town’s football team and the attractions of seeing their name emblazoned on a football shirt being given plenty of exposure on the box. In theory.
But the deal is also a hostage to fortune. It could be a major money spinner if Boro get off to a flyer. There may be a posse of household names chasing the chests of the champions elect if the Strachanovite shocktroops sweep all before them. The club could be charging a premium and auctioning off the space come March if promotion looms.
But what if the season is a slow burner? What if it just stumbles along outside the play-offs? Or worse. What if the national media gaze is on Leeds or Forest? What if the regional media are infatuated with the Newcastle/Sunderland basement battle? What if the Boro shirt and their logo is relegated to a blipvert at the end of the Look Geordie Monday round-up and a brief glimpse in the graveyard shift of the BBC Championship high-lights? What then. Form an orderly queue.
On the plus side it probably means a blank shirt in the club shops. It wouldn’t be worthwhile Adidas printing up individual batches with a sponsors name on. If you want that authentic first team look it’ll have to be iron on patches like the Dial-a-Phone days and the real shirt anoraks wikll have to buy all ten to keep the collection complete.
But that is double edged too: if the shirts are blanks then would-be sponsors – especially local ones – are missing out on the secondary passive subliminal advertising that comes with thousands of shirts bearing their name walking around the town all year. There is no long term tangible evidence of the sponsorship once the month is up.
It is a high risk strategy. That may explain why no one has tried it before. For instance, unless Boro reach the play-offs there is only one match in May. If the season has fizzled out who will buy that package? What if there is a big freeze and two games are off in December? What if they fail to sell a month? What if they sell a month in advance on cheaply but Boro go on a cup run and get drawn against Manchester United and it is live on the box and the club have missed out on a major opportunity?
There are big flaws in this plan. Sponsors want a return in terms of screen seconds and column inches but this reduces their potential impact dramatically. When a snippet of film is needed to illustrate Boro on TV or a snap needed of hat-trick hero Kris Boyd they won’t use the latest footage, they will use the best. It is quite possible that the lucky firm who have the shirt in March see pictures on the telly or in the local and national press taken in November and advertising another product free during their time slot.
And when this month’s sponsor is announced there won’t be the big splash or a year long main deal with the huge unveiling. Come November TV editors will yawn and say “not again” while even in the Gazette it will slip down the agenda until it reaches the bottom paragraph of the back page story that turns inside to page 46. That is hardly a high profile premium product. No, this hasn’t been thought through.
At the very least they should have kept it under wraps until they had one or two pump priming marquee brands lined up early on to prove its viability. Marketing people are like sheep. If a big spend recognisable brand takes the bait early on the rest will take an interest but if silence follows it will spook the suits.
I’ve already talked about shirt sponsorship this summer and made what I thought were some useful suggestions that chimed with the new Caledonian feel to the club. You can remind yourself of my Irn Bru pitch here.
You can’t help but feel that the money involved in piecemeal packages is relative peanuts and that the club have missed the chance to generate a lot of good will and pull off a PR coup by donating the space to local charities like Zoe’s Place or Teesside Hospice. Or Help For Heroes… that’s an open goal nationally. There was a chance to turn a negative into a massive positive and it was missed .
Of course, it is easy to spin this into a fantastic innovative marketing ploy, a policy to take the glamourous publicity magnet of top class football back to the businesses of Teesside and its environs and the deal will include hospitality, programme and perimeter advertising and probably the chance to take eager beaver Willo Flood home to help around the garden. It may even be very successful … but I can’t for a second believe that back when big Boro were talking turkey with massive multi-nationals and boasting Thursday night UEFA Cup coverage that they would ever be back appealling in the Gazette for would-be sponsors to get in touch like a Northern League .
But if Club Bongo International. Jeff The Chef or Mrs Vickers wants to get in touch they can contact the club’s commercial team on 0844 499 6789.
AFTER A little poke about it seems Coventry (similar size, a bit lower in profile maybe but in a better logistical position and maybe a more healthy regional economy) have just announced a new three year deal with delivery firm CityLink worth “up to” ÃÂ£1m
But that aside it all seems very low key with smallish, localish firms (hmmmmm Ginsters) dominating, especially from the financial sector and with the odd on-line gambling firm thrown in. Sheff Wed had a local hospital on board, United sported the slogan “Visit Malta” and Scunthorpe were 1980s old school ‘Rainham Steel’ – a name that it was mandatory to display in Football League Stadiums until 1993.
While Coventry have put figures on their new deal many other teams seem very cagey about their sponsorship income. A few years ago firms were keen to trumpet how much they had invested but now it is more descreet and increasing tied to results. In the last few weeks Swansea have renewed their deal with 32bet, Burnley with local firm Samuel Cooke and Derby with buymobile.com and all have described the deals as their “biggest ever” but have not specified the value.
Doncaster Rovers have teamed up with local insurance firm One Call (“one of the town’s biggest private employers with over 150 staff and keen to raise their profile nationally”) in a three year deal said to be “substantial”.
Norwich have extended their deal with local giants Aviva (formerly Norwich Union) for a third year. That was described two years ago as what “could be a multi-million deal.”
Here’s an idea of the kind of companies involved at this level. According to a comprehensive list on a QPR forum by someone who has done the research for us, last season’s Championship shirts sponsors were:
Barnsley – Barnsley Building Society
Bristol City – DAS Insurance
Cardiff City – Vans Direct
Coventry City – Cassidy Group (property developer)
Crystal Palace – GAC Logistics (shipping and logistics)
Derby County – Bombardier (aeroplane and train manufacturer)
Doncaster – Wright Investments
Ipswich Town – Marcus Evans Group (chairman’s own events company)
Leicester City – Jessops (photographic retailer)
Middlesbrough – Garmin SatNav
Nottm Forest – Victor Chandler (gambling)
Peterborough – MRI Overseas Property
Plymouth – Ginsters (pies and pasties)
Preston – Enterprise (infrastructure maintenance)
QPR – Gulf Air (airline)
Reading – Waitrose (supermarket)
Scunthorpe – Rainham Steel
Sheffield Utd – Visit Malta
Sheffield Wed – Sheffield Children’s Hospital
Swansea City – 32Red.com (gambling)
Watford – Evolution HDTV (technology manufacturer)
And this season’s teams relegated from the Premier League had:
Portsmouth – oki (Japanese printing company)
Burnley – Fun88 (Chinese online sports betting company)
Hull – totesport (online betting company)
MEANWHILE, reading the entire internet so you don’t have to…. here’s a quick plug for Untypical Boro on Twitter and the kind of interesting things I have been pointing my browser at elsewhere on planet football. Look, some World Cup stories that aren’t about Howard Webb or the pyschic octopus….
The WC has been a massive profit generator – but South African people have seen little of the economic dividend
An interesting blog on the problems of watching the World Cup on Spanish language channels in the USA and why the latin audience if far from united
Football factories: as we go navel gazing about the failures of English coaching, here’s a very long but interesting and very well researched US press analysis of the Ajax youth system
All this and more every day if you “follow” me on Twitter.