Law firm becomes first brand to sponsor video referee replays in sport

Legal brand Patient Claim Line has signed a pioneering two-year deal to sponsor video referee replays in rugby league's Super League.

Games from the tournament, the title sponsor of which is Betfred, are shown live on Sky Sports.

Patient Claim Line is not new to TV sponsorship: in 2015 it became the first legal brand to sponsor a show on ITV, when it signed on to daytime court show Judge Rinder.

The rugby sponsorship will be part of wider marketing campaign "Know for sure, know for free", which is targeted at victims of medical negligence and serious injury.

A spinning wheel graphic will appear on the video referee screen as viewers wait for a decision on whether or not a try has been awarded.

Alex Kenny, marketing director at Patient Claim Line, said: "The video referee is a great metaphor for our service – people need an expert to review their evidence quickly and give them a simple answer as to whether they have a case, similar to the way video refereeing is used in rugby to come to a quick, fair decision."

While the fanbase for rugby league is relatively small, the sponsorship deal could have great significance for sponsorship, as Video Assisted Refeering is now being introduced, gradually, into football.

Its first use in the UK was in a friendly between England and Germany at Wembley, last November, while its first use in a club game came last month, in the FA Cup match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace.

Handed on a plate

Jim Dowling, managing director at Cake, said he "definitely" expected VAR sponsorship to make its way into football. "If you’re a rights holder, then yes this is a new sponsorship category you’ve been handed on a plate," he said.

The format would potentially provide greater cut-through than most other sponsorship opportunities, he added: "If you compare it to a shirt deal, or a perimeter board, there’s an element of surprise – it punctures the run of the match."

But Dowling also warned there could also be drawbacks to introducing additional branding to already heavily-sponsored sports.

"A lot of these things depend on how they are executed," he said. "If it’s done subtly, that’s one thing, if it’s very crass, that’s another.

"It also adds to the general noise around football, which viewers find off-putting, and brands find off-putting, because it’s not a clean environment for them. If you look at the more mature sponsorship rights holders, they are looking at selling fewer things but at a higher price point."

Acknowledging this point, Kenny said: "For this to be a success, advertising has to go beyond just displaying company logos or being an interruption. It has to really help tell the story and add to the fan experience. Sport belongs to the fans, and so if you fail to consider them, you will fail to succeed."

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