sporting brands

Soccer Sponsorships Turning Rival Fans Off Products

Posted by Mark J. Miller on November 28, 2011 12:02 PM

Airlines have taken to sponsoring teams in England’s Premier League recently. Etihad Airlines signed on with Manchester City in July. Emirates Airlines has its name on Arsenal’s stadium. And Turkish Airlines has a deal with Manchester United.

Great promotion for the airlines, right? Well, there are a few that get turned off when a brand sign on with a team: the fans of that team’s rivals.

Quaker Oats got a taste of this back in 1996 when it signed former England forward and Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan to be the spokesperson for Sugar Puffs cereal, according to the National. Unfortunately, the fans of Newcastle’s rival, Sunderland, “spurned the cereal in droves, leading to a significant drop in Sugar Puffs' sales in that part of the UK,” the site notes.

Scottish rivals Glasgow Rangers and Celtic often have the same shirt sponsor “to avoid antagonizing fans on either side.” As for the airlines, the National shares a rumor that’s going around Abu Dhabi that some Manchester United fans have booked trips on Etihad and then refused to get on the flight at the gate because they can’t bring themselves to support Manchester City.

“Football is a sport where you get these loyalties that follow the brand associated with their team, or conversely, oppose the brands that are associated with opposing teams. It is immensely tribal,” said Donal Kilalea, the CEO of Promoseven Sports Marketing, according to the National. "For a lot of fans, a football club is their life, so they hate anything to do with their rival teams. Would that extend to them not getting on a plane painted in their rival team's colors? I guess it's possible."

However, there are those who beg to differ. Brian Greenwood, managing partner of Dubai-based Public Relations & International Sports Marketing (Prism), told the National that sports fans are smarter than that: "Research has shown that people are now much more switched on about sports sponsorship,” he said, according to the site. “They realize that a company's link with a club is only temporary and that if the product's good enough, they'd buy it anyway."

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