Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: New Season, Added Fizz

Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: New Season, Added Fizz

Article excerpt

The Football League's deal with Coca-Cola could deliver long-term benefits for both parties, says Mark Sweney

With the 2004/05 Football League season set to kick off this weekend, fans will come face to face with its biggest marketing and sponsorship overhaul in 25 years.

The most obvious change will be the presence of Coca-Cola as the title sponsor, replacing Nationwide after eight years. The pounds 15m three-year tie-up, which will see the League's top divi-sion renamed as The Coca-Cola Championship, is worth pounds 3m more than Nationwide's final sponsorship, and is the company's biggest investment in domestic football for three decades.

For Richard Masters, commercial director at the Football League, the deal is about more than money. 'Coke's is a big financial investment, but it also offers much larger-scale marketing support,' he says. 'For us it is great to be associated with a global brand.'

Masters is banking on the Coke endorsement attracting other high-profile sponsors. 'We are looking far beyond tickets and hospitality,' he adds. 'This is the first of a number of partners.'

The football body has secured tie-ups with Carling and van maker LDV to sponsor Leagues One and Two, the divisions below The Championship.

Masters is also seeking partners for a number of new ideas, including a league for primary-school children.

Another initiative in need of a sponsor is a Supporters League, which will run in parallel with the football season. An independent assessor at each game will score the performance of the two sets of supporters, deciding whether their performance merits a home win, away win or draw.

Points will be awarded in the same way as for the games, with a Supporters League table for each division running throughout the season. The winning clubs will receive cash prizes to be spent in a way that benefits the fans.

Boosting attendance

The ultimate goal is to attract an extra 5m fans to Football League games by 2010, boosting overall attendance from 16m to 21m. One marketing strategy under consideration is to admit fans aged under seven with a parent for free, an initiative designed to capture the interest of kids as they form life-long allegiances to a club.

The League has a small marketing budget and is working with agency TBWA\London to establish a new image and build attendance. It also plans to redesign its website. Masters, however, is quick to point out that the new marketing and sponsorship system does not mean a centralised marketing strategy; it will continue to work collaboratively with clubs.

To that end, the League recently renegotiated its deal with Premium TV, with which it operated the FLPTV joint venture that ran 75 football clubs' websites. …

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