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What exactly does ‘commitment’ mean in football shirt sponsorship deals?


At a time when football clubs are seeking to enhance revenue streams and shirt sponsors are looking to add value to their deals, selecting the right sponsorship partner and professionally managing a deal with them has never been more important.

“When football shirt sponsorship contracts are agreed, football clubs and shirt sponsors normally make announcements about their commitment to one another. The question is: what does ‘making a commitment’ actually mean?” says sports marketing expert Mr Simon Chadwick of Leeds University Business School.

Mr Chadwick’s research into the complex relationship between football clubs and shirt sponsors shows that there are key determinants of sponsorship commitment, including: the degree of trust; the nature of their communications; the geographic location of their relationship partner; the perceived benefits of their relationship; the extent to which they share organisational values; their perceived contractual obligations; the influence of their informal relationships and social networks and the existence of opportunistic tendencies.

Based on these determinants, his research reveals four distinct types of sponsorship commitment among clubs and sponsors:
    This group commit to a sponsorship deal primarily for reasons of commercial gain, are likely to have a more strategic or long-term view of sponsorship and actively try to find an appropriate sponsorship partner who shares similar commercial or organisational values

    This group commit opportunistically to a sponsorship deal, motivated only by commercial gain. They are likely to have a short-term view of sponsorship, often moving quickly from one partner to another. Generally reactive, they approach sponsorship partners as they become available without particular regard for any links or similarities in organisational values

    This group commit to a sponsorship deal for personal reasons or for the benefit of the community, although commercial factors generally still play a part. They have a longer-term view of sponsorship, particularly when there are existing links between the sponsorship partners and actively seek partnerships with organisations where there are existing, local or community links. The sponsorship partner may or may not have similarities, although it may have a common location or community profile

    This group are not really sure why they have committed to a sponsorship deal, but perceive it as beneficial. They are likely to have a short-term view of sponsorship and are more likely to behave reactively to an approach from a prospective sponsorship partner, who may not have any particular links or similarities.

Mr Chadwick believes that there are key implications of his research for both football clubs and shirt sponsors:

  • SEARCH: When searching for a new sponsorship partner, or when negotiating with an existing one, clubs and sponsors should be clear about what they are seeking to achieve through a sponsorship deal and with which type of partner this is likely to happen

  • SELECTION: In selecting a sponsorship partner, clubs and sponsors should ensure they are clear about why this type of partner has been chosen, and what the implications of this will be for their relationship

  • MANAGEMENT: When working with one of the partner types noted above, clubs and sponsors should be aware that each will necessitate managing a deal in a different way, and that this will require a flexible management approach if the partnership is to be a success

  • BENEFITS: Different types of partnership will deliver different benefits to each of those involved, so clubs and sponsors should be clear about what their partner is seeking and accordingly adjust the way they manage their deals

  • LONGEVITY: All sponsorships inevitably come to an end, but the longevity, value and effectiveness of the partnership can be enhanced by clubs and sponsors understanding who their partners are and why they have entered into a relationship with them.

“The nature of commitment is commonly associated with relationship longevity and durability, a willingness to maintain a valued relationship, and loyalty,” says Mr Chadwick, “but this is not necessarily the case here; the figures reported for sponsorship deals often show they are short-term. In the past, clubs have traditionally chased revenue, whilst sponsors have sought to associate with the popularity of football. But this is changing, because clubs and sponsors are starting to recognise the need to take a different view of the way in which they manage their relationship.

“By understanding the reasons why partners commit and identifying the type of partner they are, football clubs and shirt sponsors are more likely to have a positive experience of their relationship,” he says.

Mr Simon Chadwick | alfa

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