Could 'franchise aggregation' drive new sponsorship Leeds? ⚽️
San Francisco 49ers CMO tells the SportsPro Podcast that the NFL franchise and Leeds United are already putting the wheels in motion over potential joint partnerships.
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No English club has more ties to the US than Leeds United.
In 2022, Jesse Marsch became only the second American-born manager in Premier League history when he took over from the sacked Marcelo Bielsa.
He has since brought exciting young American talents to the club, including signing Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams from Salzberg and RB Leipzig. All three join Englishman Jack Harrison who was interestingly the #1 overall pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft having played high school soccer in Massachusetts.
The American influence has been picked up by US TV execs. After beating Chelsea 3-0, they lined-up the following weekend on the top TV spot in the US. In doing so, their match versus Brighton relegated Premier League powerhouses like Man City and Liverpool’s fixtures over to Peacock.
And this is only the beginning as San Francisco 49ers investment arm are prepping to take control. According to The Athletic, 49ers Enterprises has a deal in place to take control of Leeds from Andrea Radrizzani’s Aser Ventures for more than £400m. They already own a 44% stake in the Yorkshire outfit.
This could have an incredible impact on the club’s commercial revenues. Speaking on the SportsPro Podcast, the 49ers’ chief marketing officer Alex Chang said the NFL franchise and Premier League club are already putting the wheels in motion over potential partnerships.
“It’s very much something that we’re thinking about,” said Chang. “We’ve had teams working on that as well to say, ‘can we strike a commercial sponsorship deal that includes both clubs?’
49ers Enterprises would be able to offer brands a unique opportunity to amplify their presence across two of the most popular sports leagues in the world.
“Obviously, the [Premier League] is way up there and NFL is king in the US. So [when] you marry those two together, and you have two historic franchises, it’s a pretty powerful proposition.”
Despite American ownership groups with interests in the two leagues, there has been limited cross-over in relation to commercial partnerships to-date.
However, one exception to that rule is when Kroenke Sports & Entertainment Group signed an expansive global partnership with the Ball Corporation in 2020.
That deal gave the aluminium packing company naming rights to the then called Pepsi Center (home to the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and NHL’s Colorado Avalanche) and included access to the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Premier League team Arsenal.
Though it didn’t take off a wider trend following that deal, it could be different this time round, especially for Leeds and the 49ers for 3 reasons.
1. The #NFL's International Home Marketing Areas (IHMA) program has opened up greater commercial opportunity.
The scheme is first opportunity for corporate partners to activate partnerships around their 49ers affiliation beyond the team's Northern California home market.
The 49ers, who are one of only 6 teams granted rights in the UK market, have already announced current team partners such as Levi's and United Airlines have taken advantage of the program. Both extended their sponsorship rights with the 49ers to Mexico and the UK.
2. Leeds United can provide greater on-field visibility for 49ers commercial partners than they can get back home.
Though it recently creeped into the NBA, ‘front of shirt’ is not an asset available in NFL. Offering such sponsorship assets via Leeds United can provide brands greater visibility in their sponsorship deals.
It can also provide a new type of sponsor to the Premier League outfit…
3. Leeds United’s current deal with bookmaker SBOTOP is under threat from government regulations.
It was reported in July that the Premier League had asked its clubs to support phasing out gambling brands sponsoring shirts in a bid to avert the threat of a UK government-enforced ban.
Crystal Palace were among the first to act on this, ditching betting brand W88 from the front of their shirts and replacing it with Cinch, an online car dealership and one of the fastest growing companies in the UK. Leeds are likely looking to follow in similar footsteps.
While there are a limited number of UK brands spending big on advertising and sponsorship, there are a lot more in… you guessed it… America.
Looking to the US, and 49ers home state of California in particular - a state with 278 Unicorns (companies with a valuation over $1bn yet to be listed on the stock market) alone, is no bad idea for Leeds United’s commercial team.
Especially as many of these highly valued businesses have intentions to expand globally, with the UK and territories across Asia (where the Premier League is popular) key targets for growth.
While little has come since Kronke’s deal so far, the conditions now look more favourable than ever to finally get the Ball rolling…
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