Last week technology giant Intel announced it would be teaming up with one of the elite clubs in world football, F.C. Barcelona, in a sponsorship deal that most had to read twice when they were perusing the details of the deal. Intel is now the official technology partner of Barcelona, and will have its logo placed on the inside of the team’s shirts – that’s right, the inside of the shirt. Why would any company pay to have its logo placed in a place that no one can see? Such was the reaction of most when the news first broke, but after digesting the particulars, this could be somewhat of a revolutionary idea that changes the sponsorship model paradigm.
Intel vice president of sponsorships David Haroldsen was quoted in a Bloomberg article and said,
This is a first-time placement of a logo inside of their jersey and a first for a technology company.
Intel’s technology will give Barcelona’s coaching staff and players a leg up in research, training and performance and they will also provide devices to students at the club’s famous La Masia academy, which produced current stars such as Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta. Haroldsen went on to add,
In the future, we will also be working to improve the fan experience through new technology at Camp Nou.
Forbes reported the Intel/Barcelona deal to be a 5-year, $25 million agreement, in which Intel will pay the club $5 million each year. Barcelona is already valued by Forbes to be the 3rd most valuable soccer club in the world at $2.6 billion, behind only Manchester United and rival Real Madrid. By the next round of valuations in April, Forbes estimates that the club’s value will increase to approximately $3 billion. The value of the Intel deal is certainly noteworthy for any club, but the dollars the club will receive over the next five years is not necessarily the reason why this deal sticks out in the minds of many around the industry.
Traditionally, when we think about sponsorships, the value equation is money exchanged for slapping a logo on a shirt, banner, stadium, or some other highly visible surface that will ultimately lead to increased brand exposure for the paying party. This particular deal is making a splash in the industry because the Intel logo is on the inside of the shirt – not typically the real estate that would even be considered for a sponsorship. While a technology company and a soccer club may seem somewhat of an odd pairing to some, it truly is not in today’s sports marketing and sponsorship industry. Manchester United just signed a deal with an ‘official paint partner’ in China not too long ago, and also have an official tire partner (two in fact) as well as an official noodles partner in Asia. Teams are branching out and partnering with companies in industries now that just a few years ago no one would have thought would be in the conversation in order to broaden their brand’s global reach, yet most of these companies do not benefit from optimal team placement, such as the jersey, for their brands.
Those sponsorships that do not get prime real estate on the jersey, stadium, or otherwise do get the increased brand exposure in other ways, such as special events and various media outlets where the two brands can be displayed together. Intel will certainly leverage these vehicles, but the way they may have opened the door to a new class of sponsorships for the space and real estate that is not always seen.
Players are reportedly supposed to lift their shirts up after scoring a goal, which will reveal the Intel logo inside, a play on the company’s slogan “Look inside” – and a clever one at that. We have seen many players lift their shirts after scoring to reveal a message on an undershirt in the past, Messi included with a ‘happy birthday’ note to his mom, but they often were either penalized in the match itself with a yellow card for excessive celebration, or fined by the league for their actions, or both. After Barcelona and Intel negotiate through those waters, Intel needs to hope that the players actually do lift up their shirts when they score, which for Barcelona is often, because there is no binding agreement to mandate this action in the deal, which makes this a bold move for Intel from an ROI perspective.
However, all of that does not change the fact that this deal has shown that we have just begun to tap into the possibilities for partnership in this industry. It challenges the status quo, and should it prove successful, may have opened the floodgates to a whole new way of thinking about sponsorships for clubs to begin to sell space that would previously not have been worth very much, if anything at all.