The English Premier League is unarguably the best league in the world when it comes to football business. This can be easily traced to the massive amount of money realised by football clubs and players from Endorsement deals; sponsorship agreements between clubs and big companies; sales of goods bearing the Premier League club’s Logo; whooping sum paid to acquire exclusive rights to Broadcast matches to fans across the globe. The terms “Brand Endorsements, Sponsorship, Merchandising and Broadcasting in relation to the English Premier League will be discussed below.
Sponsorship– Sponsorship simply refers to a way through which companies provide financial support for a particular competition so as to promote the sales of their products or for people to request for their services.
In the English Premier League, about 9 football teams are being sponsored by Gaming companies such as Defabet, M88, W88, Man BetX, SportPesa, Betway and this makes people to be more aware of different betting companies available.
These companies pay the football teams a huge amount of money to have their trademark in form of logos or names on the team’s kit. Manchester United has the biggest sponsorship agreement as they are paid £47m per season to wear the Chevrolet logo on their kit.
Recently, the English Premier League signed Coca Cola as its official soft drink sponsor. In the words of Sports sponsorship expert Nigel Currie, “My view is that Coca Cola will have seen what PepsiCo have done with their Champions League sponsorship, which they have used to promote different brands they own into different geographic territories….. the Premier League has a very similar reach in terms of popularity around the world, and Coca-Cola will be thinking they can do the same as Pepsi has done.
The Main IP right involved in Sponsorship is the trademark which is simply a name, logo, or symbol used to identify particular goods or services. In the case of Chelsea football Club which is one of the teams in English Premier League, the name “Yokohama tyres” is placed in front of the Club’s jersey as the Japanese Tyre Manufacturer pays about £40 Million to have the name in front of the jersey.
Brand Endorsement – It is noteworthy to mention that the term “Endorsement” does not have a univocal definition. It means so many things depending on the context in which it is used. According to Investopedia.com, the term in relation to football deals refers to “A public declaration of support for a person, product, or services. Endorsement deals is a contract which involves a form of advertisement which involves a famous footballer who has a high degree of trust, recognition and respect among football fans. In the English Premier League, famous footballers such as Eden Hazard, Paul Pogba, David De Gea, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Mesut Ozil among others all have endorsement deals.
Hence, Companies believe that such endorsement will influence fans to buy their products leading to profits for the companies. It suffices to say club sponsorship and player’s endorsements by corporations are useful strategies to communicate with consumers.
In February 2019, Harry Kane signed for the razor’s firm Harry’s to become the branded face of the brand. Another footballer in the Premier League who boast of big endorsement deals is Mesut Ozil. The Arsenal star surely has the influence to expand his endorsement footprint with almost 10 million Twitter followers and over 28 million Facebook fans. This shows that Ozil has a huge social media presence and with this, he has endorsement deals with brands like Adidas and Mercedes Benz.
The Intellectual Property rights involved here are the patent and image rights of players as some of these endorsement deals involves players endorsing a new and useful process, machine, manufacture or any new and useful improvement such as quality of a new boot made by sportswear giants. For example, Chelsea’s Eden hazard who has an endorsement deal with Nike for a long time now(since 2012) helped in launching the Nike Mercurial Ultra Flyknit Vapor in 2018.
Merchandising- Merchandising is often used as an effective tool to attract sponsorship for special events. It is common for organizers of football matches or football teams to authorize sponsors to manufacture and sell merchandise that bears the Football team’s or Competition’s trademark or symbol. Hence, football teams In English Premier League make a lot in terms of selling Products with their names and logo on. An example of these are the scarfs, jerseys which are commonly worn by fans of different Premier League teams around the world.
The main Intellectual property right here is the trademark and the industrial design. According to a research conducted by World Trademark Review in 2018, it reveals that for the third year in a row, Manchester United boasts the most trademarks of any club in the English Premier League
Broadcasting rights are very important as it helps to protect broadcasters who pay huge amount of money to acquire the exclusive rights to broadcast major sporting event live to audience across the globe from making a loss in their business as there exist the related rights which can be invoked to prevent other companies from rebroadcasting their work or recording and selling videos of it without their permission.
The Premier League’s last deal for broadcasting rights agreed in 2015 and which runs till 2019, was worth £5.14bn. Also, according to a report by the British Broadcasting Corporation, “the rights to show Premier League games from 2019-2022 have been sold for £4.464bn – with two live packages still to be sold…Sky Sports have won the rights to four tranches – 128 live matches – while BT Sport have one, comprising 32 games.”
The dominant IP rights here is the related rights which can be relied upon by companies such as Sky Sports, BT, DAZN, TSN among others. Hence, it helps to protect broadcasters who pay huge amount of money to acquire the exclusive rights to broadcast Premier League games from making a loss in their business as there exist the related rights which can be invoked to prevent other companies from rebroadcasting their work or recording and selling videos of it without their permission.
Written By Peter Arojojoye- a 400 level student of the Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan. . He is the Co-Founder of Sport Clique, a student organization in his University and also the Head of Sport and Media Division of the Intellectual Property and Technology Law Club, University of Ibadan. He has interest in Corporate Law, Investment and Sports. He can be reached via [email protected].