It’s spring again – the time when football clubs and sponsors start their annual mating ritual. Wolverhampton Wanderers, newly promoted to the Premiership, has already bagged itself a deal with online betting firm Sportingbet while Plymouth Argyle has renewed its vows with Ginsters (taking the sponsorship through to the end of 2010/2011).
Also in negotiation is Portsmouth FC’s relationship with Japanese printing giant OKI – which is coming to the end of its £5 million, four-year term. In a statement, OKI said it was “in negotiation regarding shirt sponsorship. Further information will be made available at an appropriate date.”
Renewal would be a welcome boost to cash-strapped Pompey. But key to OKI’s decision will be whether the South Coast club stays in the Premiership. Currently, it is just six points clear of the drop zone and has a tough run in – with games against Manchester United, Arsenal and three of its relegation rivals coming up. Presumably, OKI’s “appropriate date” is the day that Pompey becomes safe.
The importance of Premier League status for OKI can’t be over-stated – particularly against the backdrop of the global recession which has hit Japanese exporters hard. It is the Premiership which gives OKI TV exposure across Asia, Europe and the Americas. Lose that, and the appeal of the Portsmouth shirt sponsorship is dramatically curtailed.
The importance of Premiership status was underlined by the Wolves deal – signed when it become clear that the Midlands club was heading for the top-flight. The seven-figure deal is the biggest in the club’s history. It is for two-years – which presumably is a precaution against Wolves going back down to the Championship. Like OKI, Sportingbet is an international company and will want to ensure it gets the biggest possible audience for its money.