On February 6 England will take to the field against Brazil. Two of the most feted names in world football will go head to head at Wembley. It’s a blue riband occasion and the perfect moment to assess the strength of ‘Brand England’ and its appeal to sponsors.
In 2013 we are only three years away from hitting a half-century of hurt – 1966 was, as we are all too frequently reminded, the last time the team actually won a major tournament. But does this lack of success actually impact on the commercial value of the brand?
Last year England signed a new shirt deal with Nike worth a reported $45m a year (when other endorsements with Carlsberg, Lucozade, Mars, Nivea and Vauxhall are considered, Team England’s annual income from sponsorship is worth close to $100m).
Compare that with Brazil, whose deal with the same supplier is worth just $20m. Even Spain, winners of the past three major tournaments, receives less from their shirt sponsor (in their case adidas) than the Three Lions.
What then, is the unique appeal of Team England and how is it able to secure such lucrative contracts?
The key lies not so much in the success (or lack of it) achieved by the team, but rather the audience that brands are able to reach through their sponsorship of England. Football indexes very highly against young males, a key, and difficult to reach, target group for many brands. The media cost of reaching this audience in the UK is extremely high and rights holders, such as the FA, are therefore able to charge a premium for their sponsorship deals.
Strength of support obviously also plays a part, and in this regard England benefits from a fan base that is both extensive and remarkably resilient, both home and abroad. Football is the country’s national sport, and the fans appear to have a constant willingness to invest in and follow the team, despite repeated failures on the biggest stage.
Research also shows that England enjoys a large global following, and that many football fans have adopted England as their ‘second team’.
With further special matches to mark the FA’s 150th anniversary ahead and the team well placed to qualify for next year’s World Cup Finals, the picture continues to appear attractive for sponsors. The challenge now – as it has been for the last 47 years – is to do better once the players cross the white line.
By Ed Wooller, head of consulting, Repucom UK & Ireland