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Football clubs as multi-sport powerhouses


FC Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Juventus Turin – these clubs are known all around the world for their countless football titles. Now, though, many clubs are bringing home trophy after trophy in other sports, too. Handball, basketball or esports: bringing together a variety of sports within one club is sky-rocketing in popularity, and, by extension, so is their level of awareness among different target groups. Paris Saint Germain has its world-famous men’s football team, but its women’s team is similarly successful. Its handball team has been the French champion no fewer than ten times, and its esports team was among the top 12 at the 2021 League of Legends World Championships. The Spanish football record holders Real Madrid also boast other elite sports: alongside its men’s team, it also has a successful women’s team and a basketball team.

There are many reasons why rights holders shouldn’t just rely on football, the traditional driving force. If a club is represented across lots of different sports, they can increase their target group and, in turn, boost merchandise sales figures – and their revenue. Plus, greater numbers of fans also mean greater reach on social media, which is an increasingly important factor when looking for sponsors. If you can bring together the world’s best sportspeople in all kinds of sports under one club’s banner, you can elevate your own image and become even more appealing to potential partners, too. Besides this, each competition is home to different opponents, enabling a club to gain a foothold in even more countries. In other words, the various sports don’t just help the club tap into new target groups, but new target markets, too.

As far as sponsorship deals go, though, the difference between these sports remains substantial. This is clear to see in FC Barcelona’s annual report: while men’s football generated just shy of 495 million euros in income, this figure is a mere 4.4 million euros for the women – while its basketball team, in comparison, brought in more than double the proceeds at a shade under 10.7 million euros. At 1.5 million euros, FC Barcelona’s handball team brings in the least money of its elite sports. In other words, there is no doubt that men’s football is still the most popular choice among companies and brands wanting a partnership with a sports club.

Despite this, it’s important not to underestimate women’s football. At the end of April, the Champions League semi-final saw the women from VfL Wolfsburg and FC Barcelona face off on the pitch – in front of almost 92,000 spectators at Camp Nou. The ladies from FC Bayern Munich also set foot in the Allianz Arena for the first time this year, with 13,000 spectators offering the largest audience the women’s team had ever had for a home game. But spectators aren’t just flocking to stadiums in person: the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup was watched by just shy of 1.1 billion people worldwide. So, it’s only a matter of time before major women’s football sponsorship deals start coming into play. Already, leading advertisers like Visa are increasing the amount they’re spending on marketing in women’s sports. So, if you’re a company or brand looking to get ahead, make use of this period of early success to get on-board – the only way is up for both reach and popularity alike.

The winds of change are blowing, with new sports joining the traditional option of football: esports is a frequent addition to the line-ups at rights holders and companies. In general, this area is seeing rapid growth – in 2022, revenues are set to increase to just under 1.1 billion US dollars. 42 percent of this amount comes from sponsorship funds alone. That’s because brands find esports to be the best way to reach the young target group of sport-loving millennials and Generation X. In Germany, clubs like Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Werder Bremen have already set up their own esports teams, while internationals like Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are also getting involved.

When entering into sponsorships, most brands and companies look at where activation will be most worthwhile, considering viewer figures, performance and/or social media reach. The larger the ‘stage’, the better the sponsor is viewed by the target group. So, it’s no surprise that football remains the most popular choice for companies, with more than 4 billion fans around the world. ‘Smaller’ sports like handball, basketball and esports often lie forgotten by sponsors. They rarely have their own deals, cooperating with the club’s football side instead. As a result, sponsorship newbies, in particular, shouldn’t underestimate these sports, as they’re often a much easier place to get started. Brands and companies can nevertheless profit from the club’s big name, with even the ‘smaller’ sports drawing benefit from the club’s impact.

The best example of this is FC Bayern Munich’s basketball team. FCBB can indeed benefit from the added value offered by the FC Bayern family, but now stands in its very own spotlight, with its own network and an independence documented in its claim, ‘we ball together’. Cross-club ideals and traditions are developed in conjunction with the energy and ingenuity of basketball culture – in other words, the perfect environment for an appealing sports sponsorship. And FCBB is going further still, with its esports team celebrating its comeback on 13 April. So, FC Bayern Munich is expanding the range of sports under its banner even more – offering increasing opportunities and chances for companies and brands engage with the Bavarian club in the form of a sports sponsorship.

In general, major sports clubs have noticed that diversification can benefit their reach and their sponsorship business. If a company enters into a partnership with a new or smaller sport at an early enough stage, they can benefit from the power of a big player in the sports business – at a low threshold. However, in this domain, too, authenticity and honesty remain key factors that enable clubs and brands to join forces for a successful future.

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By ticking the box above, I agree that SPORTFIVE may use the data provided by me to contact me and send me further information and interesting insights as well as offers for sponsoring and sports marketing. I am aware that I may revoke my consent at any time with effect for the future by clicking on the link at the bottom of any e-mail sent by SPORTFIVE or by sending an e-mail directly to newsletter@sportfive.com. SPORTFIVE will collect, process and store my data with the utmost care and in accordance with the relevant data protection regulations. | Further information can be found in our data privacy policy at the end of this website.