Five of the Premier League 22/23 season’s strangest sponsorship stories
Falsified employees, discounted vegan sausage rolls, Ukraine sanctions: this season in sponsorship campaigns played out in any number of bizarre and unpredictable ways. In this article, we examine five of the most unusual sponsorship stories in the Premier League this season and if there is anything we can learn from them.
Arsenal x Buckenham Locksmiths
At the end of last season and the start of this, Arsenal FC, whose portfolio includes the Emirates and Visit Rwanda, also had a player-business partnership with a small family locksmith on Blackstock Road, Highbury. Why? This was the fifth instalment in the ‘Arsenal Supporting Supporters’ series. In the past, the series has featured local businesses including The Chip Inn and The Tollington.
It’s a fantastic idea – Arsenal players can connect with their keenest supporters and show an affinity for family-run local businesses. The content around the partnership included a 60-second advert with current and former club legends, Leah Williamson and Tony Adams.
“It was quite surreal, we just couldn’t believe all this was being done for our little locksmiths – you just don’t think this kind of thing happens to your business.”
Like most football teams, Arsenal make a lot of superfluous content; an entire series dedicated to Gabriel Jesus’ injury springs to mind. This series and particularly the Buckenham Locksmiths partnership, has garnered widespread positive press and has had a palpably positive impact on the business without feeling in any sense performative.
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Chelsea x Parimatch
Parimatch Tech are a betting firm linked to owner Todd Boehly; in March, the company was sanctioned by Volodymyr Zelensky alongside 279 other companies who “through gambling business schemes, worked against Ukraine, withdrew funds from our state and financed various Russian schemes.”
Parimatch were not only presenters of Chelsea’s starting XI on matchdays, but had their logo displayed around Stamford Bridge as part of a three-year deal penned in 2021. As of March, the club claimed to be ‘reviewing the decision to continue the partnership’ and while news on the matter has been light, Parimatch continue their sponsorship activities as normal. After previous owner Roman Abramovic’s unceremonious exit from the club, Chelsea have been at the intersection of sport and global politics. At present, they continue to underplay or ignore issues surrounding the partnership – a bold move that could backfire down the line.
Fulham x Titan Capital Markets
A London club who fared far better in the league, but Fulham were nonetheless also caught up in broader economic scandals. In November, the club terminated their deal with Titan Capital Markets after questions emerged over the apparent CFD trading firm’s legitimacy.
One month after the partnership was announced, The Fulham Supporters Trust voiced concerns during a formal meeting with the club:
“There have been serious and credible concerns around Titan for a number of weeks and this agreement should have been terminated much sooner,” said Tom Greatrex, chair of the Fulham Supporters Trust.
The reaction was prompted by a report in the Athletic, which found a number of ‘red flags’ with the company, including potential license breached, unrealistic ‘guaranteed returns,’ and an elusive or perhaps even non-existent charity associated with TCM.
The lessons learned are almost too obvious to state: do your research on any prospective partner. However, it was Fulham’s initial disregard for their supporters that arguably caused the most damage:
“Perhaps some at the club should also reflect on their attitude towards supporters raising serious issues — the reputation of our club should never be sullied in this way again.”
Manchester City x 8xBet
In a similarly slippery sponsorship deal, Manchester City this season partnered with 8xBet in a move to ostensibly grow their brand in South East Asia. However, the official betting partner of the club in Asia, and by extension this partnership, has been accused of containing numerous anomalies.
Alongside conflicting details on its workforce and business origins, the apparent LinkedIn profile for the firm’s co-founder is in fact a stock image that has been widely used elsewhere online. A promotional video for the partnership also featured a supposed representative of 8xBet, who osis in fact a London-based model with no connection to the firm whatsoever.
The fictional narratives surrounding the partnership are as confusing as they are unanswered. Manchester City have made no comment on the matter, and 8xBet continue to broadcast their status as official betting partner to their 110 twitter followers.
Liverpool x Quorn
As part of World Earth Day 2023, Quorn’s partnership with Liverpool Football Club enabled discounted vegan sausage rolls and pies for their home game vs Nottingham Forest in April. Now this may not be the strangest activation on this list of illegitimate business and global warfare, but it does stick out for one reason. As Quorn seeks to provide an alternative to the meat industry, it faces the challenge of being cost-effective, or else it is accused of only promoting a middle-class lifestyle. Following The Sponsor’s investigation, we can report that a pack of 4 Quorn vegan sausage rolls from Morrisons costs just 55p more than the ‘discounted’ single rolls sold at Anfield. What’s more, a Gregg’s vegan sausage roll at full price costs just 96p. Yes, we’re being facetious, but really! Discount?