Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Football Shirt Sponsorships: SEGA Europe and Arsenal FC

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Football Shirt Sponsorships: SEGA Europe and Arsenal FC

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

Commercial sponsorships have become an important element in most sports. This is certainly true in English football where, since the early 1980s, shirt and kit sponsorships have generated important revenues for clubs at all levels. This article describes the development of a shirt sponsorship in the Premier League. In 1999, the European subsidiary of the Japanese electronics company SEGA Enterprises, announced that it had entered into a shirt sponsorship arrangement with Arsenal FC, one of the top English clubs. The circumstances that led to the partnership are detailed in the case study below.

The arrangement helped to relieve pressures felt by both parties. SEGA was about to launch its new video gaming console in European markets and needed to come up with a high-impact marketing program if its Dreamcast system was to seriously challenge Sony's market-leading PlayStation. SEGA's executives believed that football could play a significant promotional role for the Dreamcast and wished to partner with leading clubs in important European markets. SEGA's interest was timely for Arsenal FC, which needed to find a new shirt sponsor following JVC's decision to end its 18year relationship with the club.

As well as describing specific organizational factors leading to the sponsorship decision, the case study identifies commercial developments in football of a more general kind. These have helped to create an environment conducive to shirt and kit sponsorship deals.

The case study provides information on developments over the first 18 months of the relationship, including SEGA's decision to get out of the video console business. The paper ends on a more general note. Five lessons for practitioners are identified and discussed: (1) the sponsorship decision process; (2) partner selection; (3) timing; (4) pricing; and (5) sponsorship results.

Although the lessons are examined in the context of football sponsorships, these almost certainly apply more generally to sports marketing.

The case study was prepared using materials drawn from documentary sources and interviews with key informants in football and sports marketing organizations, and football researchers. (1)

Football Shirt Sponsorships: SEGA Europe and Arsenal FC

SEGA Enterprises, a Tokyo-based video game company, launched its new Dreamcast console in the Japanese market on November 27, 1998. North American and European introductions were planned for September 1999. SEGA had high expectations for the Dreamcast console, envisaging that it would challenge Sony's PlayStation for market leadership. Management at SEGA's European subsidiary was developing its launch plan and considering football shirt sponsorships as one element in its marketing strategy. Why football? Because it was the number one sport in Europe and its fans' demographics increasingly mirrored those for video gamers. In addition, television (TV) was broadcasting more and more football games--often on a pan-European basis--providing valuable exposure for companies and their brands. The UK was particularly strong for video gaming and, in late 1998, SEGA Europe management was giving active consideration to partnering with a top English football club via a shirt sponsorship arrangement. There was about a six-month window before a sponsorship deal would come into effect, and the Dreamcast launch was nine months away. In other words, there was some pressure for a decision to be made.

London's Arsenal FC was a logical football club for SEGA to consider as a sponsorship partner. Arsenal has had a long and rich history. Founded as the Royal Arsenal FC in Woolwich, Kent, in 1886, the club's name (and its nickname 'the Gunners') reflects its historical association with Woolwich, which at the turn of the 20th century was the single most important military town in England. The club moved to its present location at Highbury in North London in 1913 (Soar and Tyler, 1989). …

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