The Premier League’s announcement that clubs will no longer partner with gambling companies for front-of-shirt (FOS) sponsorships from the end of the 2025-26 season has put soccer sponsorship under the spotlight once again.
Eight of the 22/23 season’s Premier League teams partner with gambling companies for FOS deals, and another (Aston Villa) will join the ranks next year following their agreement with online casino BK8.
The change moves the Premier League a little closer to La Liga, which introduced similar measures in 2021. However, while Spain prohibited all forms of gambling sponsorship, the Premier League has focused exclusively on FOS deals. Gambling companies can still sponsor shirt sleeves and training kits, enter into naming rights deals, and buy perimeter advertising.
Serie A has had a ban in place since 2018, but it’s looking likely that it’ll soon be rescinded.
Putting front-of-shirt sponsorship under the microscope
To understand how the new rules might affect gambling companies and the clubs they sponsor, we’ve taken a look at West Ham United. The Hammers team up with Betway for their FOS sponsorship and feature the company prominently on the perimeter boards around the London Stadium.
Our focus fell on two areas. First, we analysed the 2-2 draw with Arsenal on Sunday 16th April 2023. Second, we tracked a month of activity on their official Twitter feed (14th March – 14th April 2023). The period took in matches against Gent and AEK Larnaca in the Europa Conference League, and Fulham, Newcastle and Southampton in the Premier League.
Here’s what we discovered:
- Front-of-shirt sponsorship delivers low visibility through broadcast
- Game day social activity drives high FOS visibility and quality
- Game day social posts provide high FOS monetary value
Front-of-shirt sponsorship drives low visibility through broadcast
FOS sponsorship is the focus of the Premier League’s decision, but it’s not prime real estate during a broadcast. We tracked four asset groupings during the West Ham v Arsenal match and found that FOS ranked a distant third when it comes to visibility.
The two advertising board types (‘static pitchside’ and ‘LED perimeter’) gained much more visibility: 48 minutes 4 seconds and 19 minutes 21 seconds respectively. FOS gained a total of 11 minutes 28 seconds, while miscellaneous other assets (for example, those on training kits) clocked up 5 minutes 51 seconds.
Game day tweets drive high FOS visibility and quality
When analysing the impact of sponsorship, visibility is taken into account along with factors such as prominence and clarity. These metrics are then analysed and contribute to an overall quality score that informs our valuations.
Looking at West Ham’s Twitter account, we discovered that the visibility, clarity and therefore quality of FOS sponsorships are all very high. The average quality score across the month was 22.27% and tweets often achieved a score in excess of 25%. One (the announcement of Gianluca Scamacca’s goal against Southampton) hit 42.35%.
Most importantly for this analysis, 43 of the 55 tweets that achieved a quality score of more than 25% were posted on a game day, when attention and value are at their highest. The 1-0 win at Fulham generated the lowest quality score (23.05%) and the 1-1 draw with Gent in the Europa Conference League attracted the highest (26.14%).
To give a benchmark from another sport, when we analysed jersey patch performance from the opening day of the Major League Baseball season in March, San Diego Padres and Motorola came out on top, with a quality score of 41%. Boston Red Sox and MassMutual brought up the rear on 5%.
Each of these top-performing tweets were posted on a game day, with the top five comprising of starting line-up and full-time announcement tweets. In each case, the tweets featured West Ham shirts with the Betway branding clearly visible.
Looking further down the list, only six of the 20 highest-value posts were not posted on a game day, and only four were video posts.
- Line-up announcement v Fulham (Game Day, Image)
- FT announcement v Newcastle (Game Day, Image)
- Line-up announcement v Newcastle (Game Day, Image)
- Line-up announcement v Southampton (Game Day, Image)
- FT announcement v Gent (Game Day, Image)
- Competition retweet (Non-Game Day, Image)
- Goal announcement v Southampton (Game Day, Image)
- Line-up announcement v Larnaca (Game Day, Image)
- FT announcement v Southampton (Game Day, Image)
- Charity promo (Non-Game Day, Video)
- Aguerd and Paquetá image post (Non-Game Day, Image)
- Goal announcement v Newcastle (Game Day, Image)
- FT announcement v Fulham (Game Day, Image)
- Goal announcement v Gent (Game Day, Image)
- Happy birthday post for Nayef Aguerd (Non-Game Day, Image)
- Goal clip from Southampton match (Game Day, Video)
- Post-match footage v Fulham (Game Day, Video)
- Training session pre-Fulham (Non-Game Day, Video)
- Aaron Cresswell, 100 appearances post (Non-Game Day, Image)
- Competition retweet (Non-Game Day, Image)
What can Premier League clubs learn?
Clubs must prioritise social in their deals
As our analysis shows, social media is a critical factor in generating sponsorship value. With the right social strategy, front-of-shirt sponsorship gains more exposure and has more clarity than it does through traditional broadcast.
With West Ham and other clubs in their position looking for new brands in new sectors to partner with, there should be additional focus on the importance of social media and an understanding from both parties of how consistent and creative activation at key times can make a big difference.
Game day tweets provide high monetary value
The prominence of perimeter boards creates a problem for the league and an opportunity for gambling companies. As we’ve demonstrated, the perimeter boards are much more legible than front-of-shirt sponsorship through broadcast, and – as was the case in the West Ham v Arsenal match – they’re often visible during moments of high excitement and therefore high audience attention: three of the four goals and Saka’s missed penalty featured the boards.
If the aim of this new approach is to limit visibility, it only skims the surface of what’s necessary.
For gambling companies, LED boards are more interactive than FOS branding. By buying space on those boards during matches, there’s plenty of opportunity to make an impact with creative activation and work with clubs, the league, and the government to send powerful messages about responsible gambling.
Opportunities exist in automotive and finance
So where does this leave affected teams and what options are available to them? It’s difficult to say. None of the clubs with gambling sponsorships are among the Big Six, who have deals within finance (Tottenham and Liverpool), travel (Manchester City and Arsenal), telecoms (Chelsea), and software (Manchester United).
As you can see from our visualisations below, the involvement of Big Six clubs with finance and travel puts those categories well out ahead when considering the yearly value of the deals. None of the clubs with current gambling sponsorships will be able to command those kinds of figures, but with footholds in the league already there’s ample opportunity for brands in those sectors to get involved if the right agreement can be reached.
Clubs looking for further inspiration need only look to the continent to get it. Finance is well represented throughout France, Italy, Spain, and Germany, but the automotive industry dominates with 14 sponsorships across the five major European leagues. Currently, the Premier League only accounts for two of those deals, with Crystal Palace and Aston Villa both sponsored by Cazoo (though the latter will end this season).
Property and telecoms both perform strongly as well, and it’s notable that La Liga, where gambling sponsorship is prohibited, contributes six of those 14 deals. Surprisingly considering the sector’s made some major strides in the sponsorship of American sports, Crypto only has four deals in place, with Serie A leading the way on three.
Ultimately, the Premier League has built a significant reliance on the gambling sector and it now needs to be reconsidered. As this happens, sponsorship teams must think progressively and get to grips with the ways modern fans consume sports content and how they drive value. Thousands of pounds could be earned or lost depending on the approach to measurement.
Find out how DataPOWA can help you understand fan behaviour and get more from your deals by getting in touch with us at [email protected]