Football League bets on Sky partnership

BSkyB-owned online gambling brand Sky Bet was announced as the new title sponsor of the Football League last month in a five-year deal taking in the 2013-14 to 2017-18 seasons.

BSkyB-owned online gambling brand Sky Bet was announced as the new title sponsor of the Football League last month in a five-year deal taking in the 2013-14 to 2017-18 seasons.

Why Sky Bet?

The title sponsorship deal was announced at the same time as a renewed domestic broadcast deal for Sky Sports. The pay-TV channel’s current agreement has been extended for a further three years until 2017-18. With the Football League running out of time to secure a title sponsor before the new season kicked off, Sky Sports introduced Sky Bet to the Football League who subsequently negotiated a last-minute package.

What do the numbers say?

Neither the value of the sponsorship nor the broadcast deal has been officially released. However, according to early reports, the value of the overall package is £300 million, with 90% attributed to broadcast and 10% to sponsorship. This breaks down to £90 million per year for the broadcast and £6 million per year for the title sponsorship. UK-based energy provider npower was the previous title sponsor of the Football League – from 2010-11 to 2012-13 – and is widely believed to have been paying around £7 million per year.

Is it a good deal for Sky Bet?

If the numbers are to be believed, Sky Bet has secured an extremely good deal. The Football League has been in the market for a new title sponsor for almost a year and when interviewed by Sports Sponsorship Insider about the property in October 2012, the rights-holder was hopeful of at least matching npower’s investment, if not pushing a brand to pay closer to £10 million per year.

But is it a good fit?

Absolutely. During the football season, football betting accounts for more than 50% of Sky Bet’s revenue. Similarly, the Football League has invested heavily in digital in recent years. Its official website attracts over eight million unique visitors per month, which combined with a growing Twitter following and more than 700,000 Football League app users, makes for a highly-engaged audience for Sky Bet. In tandem with its sister brand Sky Sports, Football League viewers will be inundated with Sky Bet messaging during live matches and via a number of Sky-owned football programmes, which should see the number of new Sky Bet users grow exponentially.

What is Sky Bet hoping to achieve?

Richard Flint, Sky Bet’s managing director, told Sports Sponsorship Insider last month that the company’s objectives for the sponsorship can be broken down into three areas. Firstly, Sky Bet wants to increase recognition and awareness of its brand. Secondly, Sky Bet wants to increase its front of mind awareness for existing customers so they spend more on than with its main competitors, including Bet365, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill. Finally, Sky Bet wants to acquire new customers and drive revenue directly from the websites and mobile apps of the 72 Football League clubs.

And what about the fortunes of the Football League?

Given the circumstances, the Football League will be pretty pleased with this outcome. When a proposed deal with DIY retailer B&Q fell through in May, it looked as though time had run out for the rights holder to secure a new backer before the new season kicked off on August 3. And as one media outlet reported at the time, the Football League’s commercial team was thought to be ‘scrambling’ to find a replacement partner. Sky Bet, however, has not simply done the Football League a favour by agreeing an 11th hour, cut-price deal. A five-year commitment as opposed to npower’s three-year contract is indicative that Sky Bet is taking the partnership seriously. And a guaranteed £30 million in sponsorship revenue over the next five years will also be a welcome relief to the Football League.

Further, the deal represents Sky Bet’s first high-profile sports sponsorship agreement. They will have their work cut out to eradicate any residual awareness for npower, and Coca-Cola as the league’s title sponsorship before that, so they will be pooling a lot of resources into activating the partnership. The Football League might not have progressed as they would have hoped financially, but the calibre of BSkyB and its marketing prowess is likely to promote the Sky Bet Football League like never before.

This is a personal perspective of Luke Harman, reporter for Sports Sponsorship Insider.

Read more on Sky Bet’s sponsorship of the Football League, including the full interview with Richard Flint, in the new issue of the Sports Sponsorship Insider newsletter, published August 23.