Football fans in the English Premier League (EPL) may not have realised, but the landscape for sponsorship of their team’s shirts has changed. For the first time ever, the 2017/18 EPL campaign will not feature a team’s shirt sponsored by a beer brand, marking a changing shift in the types of industries capable of offering the levels of sponsorship EPL clubs demand given that the league is now widely regarded as the biggest and best on the planet. This is huge!
iGaming brands are quickly beginning to dominate EPL clubs’ main sponsorship deals, with almost half of the division adorning logos of iGaming brands based in all four corners of the world. According to Statista research, just 25% of EPL clubs had an iGaming shirt sponsor in 2012/13 and in the last four years alone this has doubled to 50% (10 teams).
The inaugural game of the 2017/18 EPL season saw Emirates Airlines (Arsenal) take on King Power (Leicester City), underlining the truly global influence of sponsorship in the English top flight. In fact, only four British brands will be featured this season on EPL shirts, the smallest number in the history of the division.
When the EPL began back in 1992/93, consumer electronics and beer brands were the most popular shirt sponsors, with six and four sponsorship deals, respectively. However, these have been slowly phased out, with Chang Beer being the final beer brand to lose its sponsorship deal with Everton FC last season.
When the very first betting and poker powerhouse appeared on the shirts for Fulham F.C. back in 2002/03, Betfair’s presence seemed to be somewhat of a unique deal rather than a sign of a changing dynamic in sports marketing.
The online poker “boom” in the mid-2000s — following the success of Chris Moneymaker at the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event — resulted in a host of poker brands coming to the forefront as the fan base and player base for online Texas Hold’em grew exponentially. These poker brands have steadily begun to acknowledge the EPL and the rest of the English Football League as a great marketing opportunity.
One of Asia’s leading poker and casino brands, Mansion88, for example, is now the main sponsor of Premier League outfit Bournemouth, and further down the English football pyramid, you’ll find other online poker brands seeking to spread the word. Nottingham Forest’s shirt sponsors is currently 888sport, whose sister site 888poker — one of the fastest-growing networks for online poker. Meanwhile, Grosvenor Casinos is also partnered with Fulham F.C. for the next two years.
According to new data from the Gambling Commission, the overall yield of the iGaming industry totalled £13.8 billion between October 2015 and September 2016, cementing the sector as one of the fastest growing on the planet. Meanwhile, in 2014, betting revenues on football outgrew those from horse racing for the first time with U.K. online bookmakers and that revenue “gap” has expanded ever since.
Sports betting and poker brands are improving the fan experience for supporters of Premier League clubs in more ways than one. Not only are they providing substantial funds to their team, but they are creating exciting betting markets for fans take a punt on and make the live action even more exciting. The same is also true for online poker games as well.
Betting is now an intrinsic part of the overall matchday experience for EPL supporters and even fans of sides lower down in the English football pyramid. Supporters throughout the country now have their favourite bookmakers that they use for pre-game bets and accumulators as well as in-play bets that make the live action at the game or on television all the more exciting.
As EPL television rights deals become increasingly lucrative — cementing the league as a global brand in its own right — sponsorship deals will further grow with the opportunity for brands to have eyes on them by billions worldwide. The EPL’s commercial strength is most definitely a huge pull for global brands, becoming a significant marketing channel for conglomerates. And the proof is in the numbers. The 2016/17 EPL campaign saw £226.5 million recouped by clubs through shirt sponsorship alone, representing more than a two-fold increase since 2010/11.