Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Coming Soon to a Venue near You

Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Coming Soon to a Venue near You

Article excerpt

Three overseas sporting events will bring some rare partnership opportunities to the UK this year, writes Ed Kemp.

For UK sports fans wanting more variety in the live sport they can attend, this year looks certain to please. The NFL is staging its first regular-season American football game here, the Tour de France is to host an official stage of the race in the UK and, albeit slightly further afield, in Valencia, Spain, yachting's America's Cup is making its way back into European waters after a 150-year hiatus.

The events will provide a plethora of branding opportunities, but whether there will be the consumer appetite to sustain advertiser interest is quite another matter.

In October, the NFL has arranged for the Miami Dolphins to take on the New York Giants at Wembley. The level of interest is promising; according to NFL UK, fan numbers here have risen 300% in the past few years, and more than 500,000 ticket requests were submitted for the game within the first 72 hours.

There have been abortive attempts to bolster interest in American football here before. Memories of the now-defunct World League and a lack of UK interest in what has become NFL Europa may deter some brands from the current activity.

'Sub-brands will never have the same power as the main brand,' admits NFL UK marketing director Gareth Davies. 'But when you think of the American Bowl pre-season matches held at Wembley in the 80s they were very successful.'

The International Series, as the NFL event will be known, offers sponsors the chance to build associations with the sport over an extended period. As was the case this year, London will bid against cities in Germany, Canada and Mexico to host one regular game a season in each of the next four years. The most prestigious opportunity will be a multimillion-pound title sponsorship, which will span all the games The NFL is also likely to announce another two category-exclusive partnership opportunities.

A predicted global TV audience of more than 100m for the game may go some way toward whetting brands' appetites, with the event to be broadcast by BSkyB in the UK. In addition, the NFL plans to follow up a joint venture it ran with MTV last year, comprising a series of themed NFL programmes, by seeking broadcast partners for similar projects during the pre-match build-up.

There are limits to the deals that can be struck, however. The NFL already has exclusive deals with brands including kit sponsor Reebok that extend to transatlantic activity, closing some commercial windows. Yet chances for brands to get involved, in the vein of Coors' sponsorship of Sky's NFL coverage in the UK, will present themselves.

Moreover, the NFL is said to be weighing up the possibility of selling perimeter advertising at the Wembley game, an option not available in the US. If the game features a half-time show, it too could attract a sponsor. Brands could also seek to tie up with associated events, such as big-screen showings of the game in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere in the UK.

However, Tom Silk, managing director of sports marketing agency Velocity UK, does not believe the long-term prospects for the NFL in the UK are good. 'Will UK consumers look beyond the cheerleaders and razzmatazz and buy into the skill and strategy of the wider game? …

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