Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

AXA UK, Real Life Supporters and Sponsorship of the Football Association Challenge Cup

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

AXA UK, Real Life Supporters and Sponsorship of the Football Association Challenge Cup

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

AXA UK announced its four-year, 25 million [pounds sterling] sponsorship of the English Football Association Challenge Cup, in July 1998. As a subsidiary of the French-based, multinational AXA Group, a [pounds sterling]600 billion worldwide leader in the financial services sector, AXA UK's domestic focus on football sponsorship was altogether consistent with its parent company's strategic emphasis on "Thinking Globally" and "Acting Locally". Witnessing rapid and significant growth due, in large part, to the deregulation of the world's financial markets leading to the increased global mobility of capital and corporate acquisitions, AXA UK recognized the need for a singular brand identity and a unified staff that hailed from disparate corporate roots. Such strategies are crucial for practitioners looking to forge a coherent and recognizable brand identity within a local marketplace. Following a worldwide tradition of sport sponsorship by the parent company, AXA UK's Sponsorship Team set about identifying a property that would allow the company to achieve its three primary goals, (a) to generate rapid brand awareness; (b) to build impact and stature in a competitive category, and (c) to begin the process of building a personality for the brand. The company elected to invest in sponsorship over advertising because its brand was considered to fall into a low-interest category that presented limited scope for differentiation. Rather, sponsorship promised simplicity of message, name awareness, positive association, and an opportunity to stand out from the crowd of competitors.

The Football Association Challenge Cup represents a time-tested property that is, arguably, the best known domestic, single-sport competition in the world. Beginning in 1871, the event has grown in stature and today attracts upward of 600 teams in a competition that spans a period of nine months culminating in the Cup Final which attracts a live television audience in excess of 161 million. Of greatest importance, the FA Cup has become a core element of British popular culture and remains deeply embedded in the national psyche. First sponsored by Littlewoods Pools (beginning in 1994), the FA Cup promised less risk and greater return than comparable properties. Acknowledging the seven strategic challenges that it faced, including (1) a limited budget for above the line exploitation, (2) ambush marketing from other brands and football marketers, (3) the potential negative perceptions of grass roots supporters, (4) maintaining a presence throughout the year, (5) generating awareness for AXA beyond a football audience, (6) cutting through clutter for financial, sport and football led communication, and (7) managing a dynamic event, the AXA UK hired a team of specialized agencies to fulfil such essential roles as advertising, media, public relations, event management, market research, and media evaluation.

The AXA-sponsored FA Cup represented a multi-faceted package, offering football-centered initiatives, community penetration, staff affiliation, hospitality programs, third-party promotions, the Internet, merchandising, and follow-up opportunities. Research evidence suggests that the sponsorship package significantly increased AXA UK's branded exposure in the national media. Concurrently, the company realized a significant and consistent growth in brand awareness, while successfully disassociating the previous sponsor (Littlewoods) from the property. Furthermore, the public demonstrated a clear understanding of the AXA company, as the Sponsorship Team began to deliver something that has been rarely achieved in the past, namely a significant positive shift in image, personality and consideration for the brand. Finally, the FA Cup sponsorship made impressive strides in cementing staff affiliation across what was, until quite recently, a disparate group of companies.

AXA--Thinking Global, Acting Local

The AXA Group of companies is a French-based, multinational leader in the financial services industry. …

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