Can Chelsea FC's short-term partnership model score for brands?

Short-term partnerships can offer brands a cost-effective way to increase visibility, but brands need to do their homework before they jump in.

The evolution of the traditional three- to five-year sports sponsorship model has been a long time coming, with rights holders proving slow to adapt to the shifting media landscape. However, as brand-side budget holders are increasingly pressured to prioritise short-term sales targets over long-term brand building, sports rights holders such as Chelsea FC have been compelled to offer more flexible short-term propositions. 

Chelsea FC’s new short-term partnership model, which is the first of its kind in the Premier League, was trialled with Duracell in December last year. It offers brands the opportunity to buy media spots across Chelsea’s owned channels and ad inventory, as well as providing access to players and in-house production. 

The Duracell spots that ran on Chelsea FC’s Facebook and Instagram, during Amazon’s festive football coverage, delivered millions of views and a significant uplift in its Power Bank sales. It also ran on the club website and app, hitting more than four million downloads. A clear showcase of the opportunity to use short-term brand partnerships to drive visibility during key cultural moments. 

Short-term partnerships like Chelsea’s not only provide a cost-effective way to increase visibility during key cultural moments but also deliver better effectiveness than traditional advertising. Where they fall down is on shifting brand metrics and building more meaningful connections – this is where long-term partnerships come into their own. 

Short-term partnerships enable brand budget-holders that would otherwise be priced out of the sponsorship market to introduce sports partnerships as part of their marketing mix. They also provide brands with the opportunity to try before they buy a multi-year deal – enabling both partners to ensure it’s the right match before committing. 

But before you jump in…

Agree clear partnership KPIs 

Before exploring partnership opportunities in the market, brands need to be clear on the KPIs they want the partnership activity to deliver. 

Be specific about the segment of the audience you want to target

Football’s social audiences, particularly for the Premier League clubs, are global and diverse. Be laser focused about who you want to reach within that and ensure that it is reflected in the KPIs. Ideally invest in analysing the overlap between your target audience and their fan base, enabling you to build a joint audience for targeting.

Collaborate with rights holder to create content that resonates with fans 

Knowing the audience and understanding their content needs is key to campaign success. Lean on rights holders and more specifically their insight, marketing and in-house production teams to help you understand the audience and co-create content that communicates your brand message in a way that resonates.

Get an objective valuation 

Rights holders often fail to factor in the limitations of short-term partnerships and therefore propositions can often be overvalued. Get an objective valuation of the partnership before you buy.  

Weigh up short-term vs long-term opportunities

Carefully consider the brand challenge you need to tackle and weigh up if a short-term partnership is the right solution. 

Our research shows that while short-term partnerships are effective at driving visibility, brands that contribute meaningfully to their consumers’ passion points over the longer term are rewarded with stronger attachment, deeper connections and greater trust. 

The short-term sponsorship model has a clear role to play for brands – enabling them to play into people’s passions to capture attention and drive visibility. However, given that this is a new model for rights holders, brand budget holders need to do their due diligence. 

If it’s about driving cost-effective visibility during key cultural moments, go short-term. If it’s about moving the dial on brand metrics, go long.

Emma Lax is strategy director at Cake, Havas’ sport and entertainment hub




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