Football has evolved beyond just a sport to become a multibillion-dollar industry with a massive global reach. The sport’s massive following has opened opportunities for unique strategic partnerships between football organizations and other industries. This article will explore the pros and cons of cross-industry collaboration in football and examine some of the latest examples of such partnerships.
By Quang T. Pham
Increase the brand exposure and brand recognition for both partners: Collaboration with a well-known brand from another industry can help football organizations expand their brand recognition beyond their traditional fan base, increasing awareness and appeal among a wider audience. A classic example is in 2004 when Atletico Madrid partnered with Columbia Pictures to promote the release of the movie “Spider-Man”. The partnership included a special edition Atletico Madrid jersey featuring the Spider-Man logo, as well as a series of advertisements featuring Atletico Madrid players and the Spider-Man character played by Tobey Maguire
Diversify revenue streams: Cross-industry collaboration can provide football organizations with new revenue streams that they may not have been able to access otherwise, helping them to diversify their income and reduce reliance on traditional revenue sources. For instance, Paris Saint-Germain teamed up with the blockchain platform Socios.com to create the PSG Fan Token, which allows fans to participate in club decisions and earn rewards through social media engagement
Learning from other industries: Football is still a relatively small and niche industry compared to some other sectors, such as technology or finance. By partnering with companies from these industries, football organizations can gain access to new perspectives and ideas that they may not have considered before. This can help them to stay ahead of trends and to innovate more effectively.
Internationalization and local partnerships: Top-flight football clubs are expanding globally and tapping into new markets. To effectively penetrate these markets, local expertise is key. Teaming up with a local partner from another industry can help football organizations gain access to new markets and target audiences they may not have been able to reach on their own.
Brand dilution: One of the potential downsides of cross-industry partnerships is brand dilution. By partnering with companies from different industries, football organizations risk diluting their brand and losing focus on their core business. This can make it more difficult to communicate a clear message to fans and stakeholders and may lead to confusion or disengagement.
Reputation damage: Cross-industry partnerships can also lead to reputation damage if the partner company has negative associations or a poor reputation in their industry, especially in volatile or untested industries. For instance, partnering with companies in emerging areas like NFTs or the Metaverse could potentially backfire if these industries face significant backlash or regulatory challenges in the future.
Competition with existing partners: Cross-industry partnerships may create conflicts with existing partners. For example, if a football club partners with a sports apparel company, but also enters into a partnership with a fashion brand, it may create a conflict of interest for the sports apparel partner, potentially leading to reduced trust and future opportunities.
Example 1: Liverpool x Lebron James
Liverpool has recently unveiled a pre-match jersey that is part of the Nike x LeBron James x Liverpool collection. LeBron acquired a 2% stake in the club in 2011 and has been seen wearing Liverpool merchandise on various occasions. Given that LeBron James is an iconic basketball legend, and Liverpool is one of the most successful football clubs, this collab is a prime example that leverages the marketing power of both entities
Examples 2: UEFA x Disney
In 2020, UEFA partnered with Disney to launch the UEFA Playmakers program, aimed at providing a fun and safe introduction to football for 5-8-year-old girls. The program has already had a significant impact, with over 55,000 young girls gaining easier access to football, and over 4,600 coaches trained to foster female empowerment through play and the magic of Disney storytelling. The partnership with Disney is an example of how collaborations between sports organizations and entertainment companies can bring about positive change and promote diversity and inclusion in sports
Example 3: NFL to play in Europe in 2023
The NFL recently revealed plans for its 2023 regular season, which include international games for the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, and New England Patriots. The Chiefs and Patriots are set to host games in Germany, while the Bills, Titans, and Jaguars will compete in London. This move by the NFL reflects the growing interest in American football in Europe, and fans are eagerly anticipating these games to see how their favorite teams perform on foreign soil. It will be interesting to observe the outcomes of these games and how they might influence the future of the sport’s international expansion.
Example 4: Pacific FC Partners with Indigenous Artist
One of FBIN network members, Pacific FC, collaborated with Indigenous artist Maynard Thii Hayqwtun Johnny Jr. to design a unique black-and-white alternate kit for their 2022 season. The kit featured salmon and children’s faces and was the first Indigenous-designed jersey in the history of Canadian professional sports. Fans praised the design both online and at the stadium, and the initial batch of shirts sold out quickly on the Pacific FC’s online shop, demonstrating its popularity. Not only did Pacific FC hope to raise awareness of Indigenous culture throughout the country with the alternate kit, but they also made a $5,000 donation to the artist’s charity, Hope and Health, which supports Indigenous youth in sports.
Listen to our podcast: How to start a club from scratch – The story of Pacific FC
Example 5: Borussia Dortmund x Next Media
In 2021, Borussia Dortmund (BVB) has partnered with Next Media, a regional broadcaster in Vietnam, to establish BVB youth academies and launch a youth program in multiple schools throughout Vietnam. This collaboration also involves the production of digital content that is specifically tailored to the Vietnamese market over the next five years. With Southeast Asia being a crucial market for BVB’s international expansion, the partnership with Next Media will provide the German club with local expertise, networks, and a deeper understanding of Vietnamese and Southeast Asian culture.
Listen to our podcast: Winning off-the-pitch in Southeast Asia with Borussia Dortmund