When times are good, sponsors come flocking to big sports properties such as Premier League soccer clubs. But in recession, it’s up to clubs to go searching for partners. As such, a new mindset is required – one which demands that rights holders have a clear grasp of client objectives. So it is interesting to note that delegates from Tottenham Hotspur are pulling out all the stops to try and secure a major partner from the oil rich Middle Eastern Gulf States.
Tottenham needs a big commitment – because it wants to build a state-of-the-art 58,000 stadium and retail complex to replace its existing home White Hart Lane. Like North London neighbours Arsenal, Tottenham would ideally like a long-term naming rights and shirt deal – because this money could offset the upfront cost of the stadium. But there aren’t many companies that can afford such a deal.
This is why it has targeted the Gulf – where Qatar, Bahrain, Dubai and Abu Dhabi business interests still seem willing to invest in the right sports property. Led by executive director Paul Barber, the club has been talking to decision-makers across the region, armed with Arabic-language business cards and brochures to present its business case.
Barber is keen to raise funds – but also recognises the importance of not appearing want to come across as pushy or naive. Speaking to Emirates Business on a recent fact-finding tour, he said: “We are very conscious of not walking into a country and expecting people to roll over and write big cheques because we are a Premier League club. We are realistic and know that’s not how business is done here.”
So why should anyone be interested? Well according to Barber, the new-build at Spurs will be the only stadium naming rights deal to come up in London during the next decade – which makes it a unique opportunity. For a Middle Eastern brand seeking to build a global presence, he argues that there is no more cost-effective way of reaching an international audience. “They could either spend £300-£400m on TV advertising around the world,” he told Emirates Business, “or become involved in the Premier League and get their share of 90,000 hours of TV a year.”
As an iconic soccer brand, Tottenham is well-placed to clinch a deal – but there are a couple of reasons why it is unlikely to match the money made by Arsenal. Firstly, the downturn will have an inevitable impact on prices. With a new sponsor needed before the start of next season, the club doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for economic recovery. Secondly, Tottenham has so far failed to qualify for the Champion’s League. In this respect, it is a decade behind Arsenal in terms of global brand-building. This will surely play a part in the value a new sponsor places on the club.