Will ‘The Hundred’ Be An Attractive Proposition For Sponsors

‘Embarrassing and shambolic… a total mess’.

No, not the England Cricket team’s performance against Pakistan in the First Test at Lord’s last month, but former skipper Michael Vaughan’s verdict on the England and Wales Cricket Board’s proposal for a new eight-team city tournament, dubbed ‘The Hundred’. It is fair to say that the announcement of a new 100-ball tournament – designed to appeal to a younger audience and attract new fans to the game – has not been an unqualified success.

Critics aplenty have been queuing up to lambast the move as a marketing gimmick, insufficiently distinct from Tewnty20 at just 20 balls fewer per innings, and a format too far for a sport already struggling to cope with T20, 50-over and Test cricket.

It certainly isn’t the ideal starting point for drumming up sponsor interest. But in that respect cricket has been on a sticky wicket for some time now. The ECB struggled to find a sponsor for Test Cricket, after Investec pulled out of their 10-year, £40m sponsorship deal three years early. Two pre-existing ECB sponsors – NatWest and Specsavers – have filled the void. That doesn’t exactly suggest brands are queuing up at the Grace Gates to be associated with cricket.

England’s abject performances on the pitch haven’t helped matters. Nor has the steady stream of negative headlines surrounding the sport over the last year – be it Ben Stokes charged with affray, Australia admitting ball-tampering, or the recent – strongly denied – allegations of English spot-fixing.

Against that backdrop, and the ECB’s very own chairman opining that ‘the younger generation, whether you like it or not, are just not attracted to cricket’, one might assume that ‘The Hundred’ will struggle to garner sponsor interest. But you would be wrong.

There are a few hurdles to overcome before ‘The Hundred’ is a fully-fledged proposition – consulting the players and PCA, finalising the format, gaining MMC and ICC approval – but many brands will already be eying up the opportunity. The tournament is a fresh, new opportunity, unencumbered by any previous sponsor baggage or legacy to overcome, which always plays well with prospective brands. In its previous incarnation as another T20 competition, it would have sat alongside another domestic T20 competition – the NatWest T20 Blast. Now it has differentiation, innovation, and a USP. For marketers it will be less about associating with a new format, and more about an original brand proposition.

That proposition includes both male and female competitions, and will benefit from the ever-increasing brand interest in women’s sport. It will be interesting to see whether the ECB unbundle the male and female strands for separate sponsors, although that could create marketing and logistical complexity, especially given the proposed double-headers. Perhaps a brand will make a portfolio play, much like Isuzu/Subaru with the Wales Rugby team, who have Isuzu on their home shirt, and Subaru on their away shirt.

Aside from the tournament instrinsics, brands will climb aboard if there is certainty about fan interest, and reaching the valuable family and youth audience that the ECB is purporting to target. Which comes down to the marketing, and broadcast platform. This is where the ECB has some trump cards. They recently signed a monster broadcast deal with the BBC and Sky – reportedly £1.1bn over five years – that includes this new tournament.

Creating a format that starts at either 2.30pm or 6.30pm and lasts only three hours was not just so that families attending could get home for kids’ tea or bedtime. Fitting broadcaster slots was arguably a far more significant consideration. The received wisdom is that cricket interest and participation fell off a cliff the minute cricket moved from Channel 4 and the heady days of our 2005 Ashes win, to hide behind Rupert Murdoch’s paywall on Sky. If you show it on terrestrial TV, they will come. Helpfully, the BBC will show 10 of the 36 games live on terrestrial TV, giving cricket – and its sponsors – much needed reach into bedrooms and living rooms nationwide.

The marketing muscle of Sky and the BBC is in the bag, and will help create the requisite buzz and anticipation. But the ECB have their own marketing chops. The Women’s World Cup in 2017 was a case study in engaging a new audience with the right marketing, and an accessible, family-friendly matchday experience. And ECB execs have made many a trip to the Big Bash in Australia, where there’s a ready-made blueprint on how to engage a family audience in a new competition.

In terms of the cricketing calendar, the build-up to new tournament couldn’t be much better, with a Cricket World Cup on home soil in 2019, marketing to the very same Big Eventer family audience that ‘The Hundred’ will be trying to capture. There should be a pretty handy (GDPR compliant) database from that marketing exercise, and some new cricket fan appetites to feed. Throw in a home Ashes Series in 2019 as well, and it is a pretty good time for those ECB execs to be out selling their wares.

Those sales presentations could well include images of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya and the like. India’s cricket authority, the BCCI, which bans its players from overseas T20 tournaments to protect the primacy of the Indian Premier League, are considering making an exception for the Hundred because it is played over 100 balls, not 120. The inclusion of those superstars and their IPL stardust is a sure-fire way to fuel fan, and sponsor, excitement.

Ultimately, a lot comes down to the price tag at the end of those sales presentations. The ECB’s revenue expectations should be mitigated by the coffers swelling from the £1.1bn broadcast deal. Attracting brands who will help market the tournament and engage the right audience - straight from that Big Bash playbook – should be prioritised over a fat cheque.

So, will there be a ton of brands clamouring to be associated with the new short format tournament? Assuming the ECB play the long game, one hundred percent.

Standard Life Investments: BT Sports Industry Team Partnership of the Year

How often do you hear and see award-winning campaigns and wonder what went into the winning entry or what the real results were? Well, for the first time we’re going to lift the bonnet on one of the most successful sponsorships of 2017. For one time only, we will let you into the Magic Circle, but only on a day pass.

This year at the prestigious BT Sports Industry Awards, Standard Life Investments and Synergy won the award for Best Team Partnership for the 2017 British & Irish Lions campaign. The sponsorship was arguably the biggest of last year and with an historic, and frankly, unpredictably successful tour, the partnership profile was high. But, profile alone isn’t enough to win awards – all too often I have dissected the award win of a campaign and put it down to profile or TV coverage – but in this case, it’s not true. The results speak louder than the ad space.

We set out to make Standard Life Investments the most favourable Asset Management company and we needed to increase serious consideration to invest with SLI. Done and done.

Brand awareness was important, this was an ongoing campaign measurement, but unless it translated into hard brand and business value it was useless. Every Lions jersey partner knows the partnership will increase awareness – step into a Lions Tour and it is like seeing a tidal wave of your brand with fans decked head-to-toe with official merch. But, to rely on this as a single metric of success is naïve, or worse, lazy. To turn awareness into action we had to have a campaign that cut-through, reached our audiences at the right time, in the right places and changed attitudes and behaviour.

Here are four core reasons why we hit the jackpot with this campaign:

1. A clear and simple purpose

We had a clear strategy, assisted by a sponsor and team with a connection so natural it wouldn’t have looked out of place in Whole Foods. Only the Lions bring rival rugby nations together to face the most formidable foes, only Standard Life Investments brings together specialists from diverse divisions and asset classes to deliver for our clients.

The partnership between Standard Life Investments and the Lions is one built on foundations of shared values. Both are committed to achieving world-class results through teamwork, dedication, innovation and the relentless pursuit of excellence. This informed the core creative idea One Team. One Standard – a story about the great lengths world-class teams go to achieve world-class performance.

2. Activating a Team without a Team

Navigating access to players is not a new sponsorship challenge, but for 18 months we sponsored a team with no team...and worse still, previous Lions kits featured a competitor. In short, we were starting from scratch. As a result, the campaign had to be focused on the here and now, and crafted to include ambassadors and engage with the pre-tour squad selection hype. SLI outstripped the spontaneous awareness of the previous sponsor before the team even set foot on New Zealand soil, and the business managed to offset the rights fee from incremental media value from the early phases of the campaign.

3. Being ‘Choice-ful’

This was our mantra. Less is more. The Lions presents a truck-load of activation opportunities, not all right for an Asset Management brand – we needed to strike a fine balance between operating like a B2B brand, whilst understanding that our customers are rugby fans as well as investors. Media partnerships were selected based on the ability to activate them and generate incremental media value – Sky Sports and The Telegraph were perfect partners and we worked them hard.

The regulatory restrictions on marketing to our customer base, meant that we had to use content selectively. Saying ‘no’ to the wrong opportunities and ‘yes’ to the appropriate activations led to a highly effective and targeted narrative through all channels. We reached at least 42m people within our highly-targeted global audience using partnerships and superior optimization strategy.

Phase 1 – Establishing the link between SLI and the Lions. Why we share the Jersey? We both achieve world-class performance through teamwork. Setting the Standard.

Phase 2 – What does it take to make the Lions’ Standard? Separating the Great from the Good – showcasing World-Class Potential.

Phase 3 – Preparing for a World-Class performance. Going to extraordinary lengths to deliver world-class performance
Phase 4 – Celebrating World-Class performance. How the squad are displaying the Standard on Tour
4. Teamwork

Sounds cheesy, right? But, there's no way that a campaign of this scale can happen without the unique teamwork that this campaign story was about. SLI had never undertaken a sponsorship of this scale and we worked hand-in-hand to ensure that every contingency and Lions' intricacy was covered. As with the campaign the cross-agency team had a shared commitment to the pursuit of success and excellence drawing from diverse specialisms to deliver a world-class performance…even after a round-the-clock 24-hour stint from New Zealand to UK! The proof is in the pudding: teams that work together, succeed together.

A New Wave for Brands to Surf On

The 2018 World Surf League kicked off last week in Australia and the first event of the season, the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, is already over after conditions offered both surfers and fans a very exciting 5 days of competition.  This is an opportunity for me, as a dedicated surfing fan, to share my thoughts on the future of the sport, bearing in mind some important recent events.

Unusually for a niche sport, professional surfing made the headlines a few times in the latter part of 2017 and this has continued into the first two months of 2018. There were indeed three major changes at the World Surf League, all of which helped fill column inches in the sports press:

• July 2017: Sophie Goldschmidt, former Chief Marketing Officer at the RFU, is appointed CEO
• January 2018: Will Chignell, another RFU alumnus, is appointed CMO
• February 2018: Facebook becomes the WSL’s exclusive broadcaster in a $30 million deal

As a surfing fan and as a sports marketer, this deal – the first of its kind in sports – and the move of two major figures of the sports industry to the WSL made me think professional surfing has finally come of age. This is a clear statement of intent; their way to send a message to brands that it’s now safer than ever before to invest in the sport.

Before I go any further, I should perhaps put these events into perspective.

The World Surf League was created in 2013, taking over from the rather amateur ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals), backed by the support of brands including SAMSUNG, Jeep and Tag Heuer and with the clear ambition to grow surfing as a professional sport.

They have done a brilliant job since, improving the fan experience by developing an app worthy of a professional sport – allowing fans to watch events live, compete with their friends in a fantasy league and customize their league experience in general – and improving broadcast of the World Tour year on year – promptly adopting the latest technologies available to offer an ever-immersive watching experience.

In August 2016 those efforts finally paid off, and in a game changing move, surfing made it to the list of five new sports to be included in the schedule for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

However, in early 2017, progress stalled, and the WSL was hampered by two major changes:

• Paul Speaker, CEO, and the man responsible for most of WSL’s progress since 2013, stepped down
• SAMSUNG pulled out of their title sponsorship, leaving the league high and dry and in desperate need of a new major sponsor

Unable to fill the revenue gap during the remainder of 2017, the WSL somehow survived, one assumes thanks to the funding of co-owner and billionaire Dirk Ziff.

Given the context, the recent hiring of both Goldschmidt and Chignell is a clear statement from the WSL: we still mean serious business and we’re not finished growing the sport.

The incredibly smart deal they have just signed with Facebook proves it even more; instead of searching for another brand to replace SAMSUNG and their not insubstantial investment, the league looked to other potential revenue streams and secured a broadcast partner that:

1. Fits with their target audience
2. Is best suited to the many challenges posed by live coverage (conditions are hard to predict and still water doesn’t make for exciting surfing)
3. Provides a stable platform for brands to invest in and own
4. Earns them an estimated $15 million a year

However, this wasn’t the only approach the WSL took towards making their proposition better for fans and more attractive for brands. Within the surfing community, the most talked about subject over the last 6 months has been the changes in the season calendar.

As WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow admits, "the 2018 calendar has some of the most significant changes we have implemented in many years". Key changes see the newly acquired Kelly Slater Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California replacing the iconic Trestles event, Indonesia taking over from Fiji, and the world's best female surfers joining their male counterparts at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa and leaving their usual stop at Cascais, Portugal.

This new 2018 schedule is another clear message directed to both fans and brands that the WSL is committed to “continue to explore opportunities to enhance the schedule and keep championing the best surfing across the world”.

As well as demonstrating a commitment to diversity that many more mainstream sports neglect through their championing of the women’s league, the WSL is finally behaving with the commercial and administrative nous typical of traditional rightsholders (Fiji was left out because of a lack of government support behind the event).

Above all else, by replacing an iconic World Tour stop with an artificial wave garden – meaning it acknowledges its ground-breaking commercial potential and game-changing aspect for the future of the sport - the WSL is beginning to show the world that professional surfing is entering a new era, of which it aims to be at the vanguard.

#NeymarPSG – The View From Brazil

Brazil is naturally buzzing about Paris St Germain’s swoop for Neymar. Even with the Brasileirão at full throttle and the Libertadores reaching its knockout stages, Brazilian football has had to share the spotlight with the latest in the #NeymarPSG news cycle.

The soap opera, as Brazilians call these long player negotiations, lit football afficionados (ie everybody!) and the media on fire. There is a consensus that PSG is paying an obscene amount of money. Fox Sports pointed out that Neymar’s world record price tag would buy every player in the Brasileirão’s top four clubs. And a UOL columnist highlighted that for the same money PSG could buy the other ten first choice players in Brazil’s national team.

Santos fans, however, couldn’t wait for the move to happen as they will receive a sell-on fee from Barca having previously sold Neymar to them in 2013!

Fans and the media have also been discussing Neymar’s motivations for leaving Barcelona.

Alongside, obviously, the money, most also agree that being the star at club level, as he is in the national team, and stepping out of Lionel Messi’s shadow, have played their part. It’s also assumed, in most people’s view, that this will give Neymar a better chance of winning the coveted Ballon D’Or.

As to Neymar’s image in Brazil, although he gets criticism from some for being spoiled and a bragger, he is still worshipped by most Brazilians, and if he maintains his on-field performances for the national team, his status as the country’s top sports icon won’t be affected, and may even increase - depending, in particular, on how Brazil performs in the 2018 World Cup. And as a PSG player Neymar’s exposure in Brazil will stay high, as the Champions League is shown free-to-air here.

Meanwhile Neymar’s move does inevitably impact Barcelona’s positioning in Brazil.

The long list of Brazilian stars that have worn the Barca shirt have helped make Barcelona Brazil’s most popular international club. How much Neymar’s exit will affect this is hard to predict, but will surely depend on the club’s recruitment of other Brazilian stars.

Meanwhile PSG will surely look to leverage Neymar and their other Brazilian players to sign Brazilian companies as sponsors.

Neymar’s father’s company, who together with the agent Wagner Ribeiro represent Neymar, are in pole position for this contract. They have previously represented Barca in Brazil, closing deals with local brands like Tenys Pé. And only this week, Centauro, the biggest sport apparel retailer in Brazil, announced an exclusive partnership with the club.

A new era of Neymarketing is about to begin.

by Guilherme Guimarães of Ativa Esporte, Synergy’s partner in Brazil

Investigating the commercial landscape of women’s football and why it’s in better shape than ever

"There is a very strong brand and economic case for why a brand would sponsor women’s football. One in five women are the main breadwinners in the family. There is a fast growing female economy - women have increased financial stability and, huge buying power – and yet our research shows that women don’t believe they are being represented in brand marketing. Football in particular is a brilliant and powerful metaphor for what women can achieve.”

Read the full article here.

Re-claiming London 2012’s marketing promise

How much would we all give now for another month like London 2012, which began five years ago this week? The memories remain crystal clear. The stadiums were ready on time, and packed out. Miraculously and gloriously, the sun shone, and the only thing raining was Team GB medals. Afterwards, the global consensus was that it was one of the best ever Games - maybe the best ever. And then we did it all again at the Paralympics, which was unquestionably the best ever. It put the U into UK and the G into GB, and being British felt good.

It also felt like a new dawn for sports marketing. But was it?

Famously, the London bid for the Games was won on the vision of 'inspiring a generation', especially into physical activity. But post Games, that particular needle stubbornly failed to move, until in 2015, Sport England's 'This Girl Can' campaign inspired millions of women to get active - with not an Olympic ring in sight.

There is no doubt, however, that one of London 2012's biggest marketing legacies was the momentum it put behind women's sport - now of course enjoying its highest-ever profile - owing to the success of Team GB's women, spearheaded by the Games' poster girl Jess Ennis-Hill. This led directly to the intense and continuing competition between the BBC, BT and Sky, all of whom ran huge London 2012 campaigns, to be seen as a champion of women's sport. And long may it continue.

A broadcaster also played a key role in another of London 2012's biggest and most positive sports marketing legacies: the re-invention of the Paralympics. Channel 4's dazzling exclusive broadcast coverage and award-winning 'Superhumans' campaign put sport's most inspirational spectacle from second class citizen to centre stage and made household names of GB's Paralympic athletes.

And again the legacy continues: Channel 4 repeated the coup at Rio 2016 and has just done so again for the London 2017 World Para Athletic Championship.London 2017 - the closest thing we have seen to the Olympics and Paralympics since 2012 - also offers clues to other sports marketing legacies of London 2012.

Whereas the London 2017 Para Athletics attracted numerous big-name sponsors, the London 2017 World Athletics Championship, which begins on Friday with major BBC coverage and the final appearance of Usain Bolt top of the bill, has struggled to sell any major sponsorships: the result, as it has admitted, of the Russian doping scandal which has engulfed athletics - and which we now know tainted London 2012.

How will athletics fill the huge gap created by Usain Bolt's retirement? And will fans and sponsors ever be able to believe again that what they are seeing on the track and field isn't doped?

Also striking: of the seventeen brands who were major domestic sponsors of London 2012, ten (including BA, EDF and Lloyds) are no longer involved in UK sports sponsorship at all, and of the other seven, only one sponsored London 2017 - BP, a Synergy client and committed Paralympic partner, who ran a major campaign around the London 2017 Para Athletics, as they did for London 2012.

Now you could advance various plausible theories as to some level of brand churn, in particular changed business priorities and sponsorship fatigue - not uncommon after sponsoring something as big and demanding as an Olympic and Paralympic Games. But to lose ten out of seventeen brands completely? Whatever sport was selling post 2012, it wan't for them. To paraphrase Wilde: to lose one may be regarded as misfortune, to lose ten looks like carelessness.

This is not to suggest, however, that other brands, and other events, have not stepped up. And here again the influence of London 2012 has been pervasive.

The UK’s State-sponsored strategy to win and host world class sporting events has seen the UK host an unprecedented series of events since London 2012, such as the Rugby World Cup, the Ryder Cup, the Tour de France, the Women's World Cup and more, with more to come. And in every case the staging and fan experience has been superb, inspired by the world class example (and in many cases the alumni) of London 2012.

But London 2012's biggest marketing legacy was how it transformed sports sponsorship activation. Faced with traditional barriers (the IOC's no logos policy) and new possibilities (the mass adoption of social media), the Games' sponsors re-imagined for ever the activation ecosystem around events, and demonstrated for the first time the enormous potential of the collision of creativity and technology at scale.

Every major event since then has evolved and accelerated this model, so that where we are now is light years ahead. But London 2012 blazed the trail. This truly was a new dawn.

And now, five years on from London 2012, sports marketing faces another new dawn and another generational challenge, and this one may just be its biggest ever: how to make sport itself relevant to a new generation who aren't satisfied with the status quo of how sports are organised, played and consumed, and who are re-defining what matters and what doesn't when it comes to following and engaging with sport.

Part of the solution to this challenge, which sport already recognises, is new, shorter formats such as Twenty20 cricket, and new media models which will see traditional TV rights deals give way to partnerships with the new tech giants, who are already at the table: the future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed, as William Gibson said.

But the other is even bigger and more important: to nurture and market the uniquely unifying power of sport as a beacon of hope in a world where division and disunity are the new norm.

To give sport a purpose beyond profit, measured not on how much money it makes or spends, but how it and its brand partners uses sport to make a meaningful and tangible social, cultural and maybe even political difference.

Imagine, for example, how powerful it would be if cricket threw all its marketing weight globally behind bridging the gap between Islam and the rest of the world, which of all sports it is uniquely qualified to do.

Now that's what I call inspiring a generation.

This piece was originally published by Campaign

Feeling the Force

Liberty Media, who completed their $8bn acquisition of Formula One in January, are beginning to deliver on their promise to attract a new generation of fans to the sport.From creating a more inclusive and entertaining experience for racegoers, to looking beyond direct commercial gain to fully embrace social media and the proposed launch of an OTT channel (as well as making some very smart behind the scenes hires), Formula One is certainly moving in the right direction.

And in this new dawn for F1, one team is making giant strides off the track. With a striking new pink livery, Force India is undergoing a transformation that goes far beyond the aesthetics of the car. Through a savvy commercial strategy, they are putting themselves at the forefront of the Liberty millennial revolution.

Amongst the blue-chip brands, whose logos have adorned the cars across the grid for decades, Force India have quietly been attracting a new breed of partner – and one seldom seen in the paddock before Liberty Media entered the fray; those with a target audience under the age of 30. The illusive and oft-mentioned millennial.Menswear label Farah has been brought on as Official Apparel Partner, bringing to life the partnership through their #RaceReady campaign; “a six-part content series profiling the men behind the scenes of the world’s most stylish sport”. They have also announced deals with designer eyewear brand LDNR and Diageo, as well as a prominent charity partnership with Breast Cancer Care to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the famous pink ribbon.

But the deal which stands out is the recently announced partnership with SPORTbible. Part of the LADbible Group, SPORTbible has become one of the largest communities and distributors of content for sports fans in the world. According to Quantcast, SPORTbible reaches an impressive 2.7m people monthly, of which almost 65% are under the age of 34. The partnership will see SPORTbible given exclusive access to the team to create an array of content, including interviews competitions and behind the scenes video, which will be pushed across their burgeoning social channels.

One would assume that these partnerships may be below many of the inflated rights fees that we see across the grid, placing more emphasis on the reciprocal value that they will receive by association with these brands rather than upfront investment.For partners like Farah and LDNR, it gives Force India credibility and momentum. Brands want to appear alongside other like-minded brands and are likely to seek out teams who have a stable of sponsors who fit their values. We saw a similar situation in our work with Martini, whose very visible title partnership with Williams F1, helped to make Williams a more attractive prospect for sponsors such as Rexona/Sure and Hackett.

For SPORTbible, the association has the potential to enhance the whole sponsorship proposition at Force India. Firstly, it gives potential new partners (as well as the current stable) significant additional exposure to a younger audience and a ready-made activation platform; both of which are extremely valuable negotiating tools. Secondly, if SPORTbible can help Force India to develop a more sophisticated approach to data capture and segmentation, access to this database, full of rich customer data, becomes a very valuable part of any sponsorship proposal and something which not many rightsholders are able to match.

The shift in livery is also unlikely to be a whimsical choice but one made with commerciality in mind. Whilst certainly attractive to Indian brands, the Indian flag inspired livery of past seasons will no doubt have steered potential sponsors away in fear of not feeling a natural part of what was a heavily Indian stable of partners. There are even strong rumours, at the time of writing, that owner Vijay Mallya is also considering changing the teams name in order to widen the commercial appeal. One thing is not in doubt; their current choice of livery will certainly help them to stand out from the crowd.

What this new strategy does is not only open-up a new and potentially very valuable audience for Force India, with a monetizable relationship that could last decades, it also opens the door to a raft of new ‘B2C’ brands who want to reach millennials at scale. And as first-movers in this space, Force India are extremely well placed to reap the financial benefits.And crucially, this incremental revenue will help a team who have been plagued by financial concerns in recent times to safeguard their future. Concerns which would be magnified if they were to lose the sizeable revenue from numerous Mexican brands that come with driver Sergio Perez, should, as rumoured, one of the bigger teams come calling.

All of this happily coincides with an upturn of fortunes on the track. Indeed, in a world where there is a gulf in levels of spending between teams, Force India are, pound for pound, arguably the best team on the grid this season.

Formula One is changing and Force India may just have put themselves in pole position in the Liberty Media revolution.

Room At The Top: Sponsorship & The Premier League

The annual release of the Premier League's full season payments to its clubs made for more interesting reading than usual this year, as it revealed the financial impact of the first year of the League's new commercial cycle.

Predictably, the mainstream media focused on the ker-ching effect of the Premier League's new domestic and international broadcasting deals, the engine of the League's finances, which drove a 46% year-on-year increase in the total payout.But what this storyline overlooked was that the figures also revealed the status of the Premier League's move away last season, for the first time since the League's creation in the early 1990s, from a title sponsor-led sponsorship model to a multi-sponsor model.

Financially, the transition was smooth. Premier League Central Commercial revenues, to which sponsorship is the biggest contributor, rose £5million year-on-year, to just over £95million, with the effect that the combined income from the Premier League's six co-sponsors - previous title sponsor Barclays, long term sponsors Nike and EA Sports, plus new sponsors Cadbury, Carling and TAG Heuer - more than compensated for the move away from title sponsorship.

So, so far so good, you might say. But I believe the Premier League has significant untapped potential in this space - both for itself and for brand partners.

One sign of this is that one year on from its move to the multi-sponsor model, the League is still looking for a seventh and final brand in its sponsor roster, from the tech category. If a property with the global reach and appeal of the Premier League can't find a partner from the hottest business category on the planet, something's clearly not right.

Another is that Central Commercial revenue is increasingly a drop in the ocean of the total payout to clubs: in 2016/17 it was only 3.96% of the total payout, down from 5.5% the previous season.

And when you add to that the traditional, media-heavy nature of the rights on offer, the reliance on broadcast partners' and clubs' inventory, and the fact that this inventory is finite as well as old-school, it's clear that the Premier League's prospects for growth in this space are very limited.

Unless it makes two big innovations.

First, to think beyond traditional sponsorship rights that are reliant on media and club inventory, and locked into brand categories.

If, instead, the Premier League creates new IP built around unique campaigns and powerful experiences rather than old school media and rights, it can open up new partnership opportunities and revenue streams way beyond what the traditional sponsorship model can generate.

And second, to re-purpose the Premier League brand itself.

Yes, the Premier League used the move away from title sponsorship to re-design its brand identity, and launched the Primary Stars schools programme to boost its CSR credentials.

But these haven't made a meaningful difference to the Premier League's Achilles Heel: as I wrote last year, if you ask people what it stands for other than football, the majority will say money, truckloads of money - and not in a good way. People don't believe that the Premier League has a purpose beyond profit - the essential ingredient for the most successful contemporary consumer brands.

Together with its reliance on traditional sponsorship rights, it's this lack of a purpose beyond profit that is holding back the Premier League from becoming what it can be - one of the great hero brands of the era.

A brand measured not how much money it makes, but how it uses the power of its brand to make a social and cultural difference.

And ironically, it's only by doing that that the Premier League can realise it's vast untapped marketing potential and attract a new generation of brand partners.

There's plenty of room at the top.

And Then There Were Two: Will It Be LA or Paris That Hosts The 2024 Olympics?

LA 2024 and Paris 2024 Olympic Games

This being a gap year in the Olympic cycle, in 2017 we have no Olympics to look forward to, either of the Summer or Winter variety. But, as always in these gap years, there’s an Olympic spectacle of a very different, but no less competitive, nature to observe: the contest for the right to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will be decided when the IOC meets in Lima in September.

When the IOC members gather, ostensibly their choice is simple - either Paris from the Old World or Los Angeles from the New, now that Budapest has joined Hamburg, Boston (LA’s forerunner) and Rome in opting out of the race owing to citizen activism. But paradoxically it will also be the most difficult hosting decision that the IOC has had to make for many years, because not since the latter days of the Cold War have the IOC and the Olympic Games faced so many existential threats: the spectre of the doping crisis and the continuing fallout from the IOC’s controversial decision not to ban Russia from Rio 2016; a flawed youth strategy resulting in an aged fan base worldwide; and the huge costs and questionable social and economic benefits of hosting the Games, vividly demonstrated by Rio’s many and continuing problems.

Against that forbidding background, what is now top of the IOC agenda ahead of Lima is not which city can best stage the Olympics, but which one can most effectively help combat the IOC’s two biggest existential threats: to make the Games and what they and the IOC stand for relevant to a new generation of consumers, in particular younger consumers; and at the same time to persuade a new generation of host cities to bid to stage the summer and winter Games, particularly in America and Europe, where disaffection in city halls and suburbs alike is strongest.

Both are key themes in the LA and Paris bid pitches.

LA is the most compelling, with its vision of Californian sunshine, West Coast tech innovation and Hollywood storytelling power combining to ‘regenerate the Games’ and ‘refresh the Olympic brand around the world’.

Paris is more traditional, a classic piece of Olympic realpolitik, invoking de Coubertin in a ‘new vision of Olympism in action’ in the grand old city, linked to those time-honoured Olympic bid promises of urban regeneration and increased national sports participation.

But the IOC’s dilemma runs much deeper than choosing one or the other: its problem is having to make a choice.

Saying no to LA would probably end America’s interest in bidding for the Games for a generation, the IOC having thus rejected bids from the three biggest American cities (following New York and Chicago, which bid for the 2012 and 2016 Games respectively) in succession.

Quite apart from ‘biting the hand that feeds’ in the shape of the country which is by far the biggest IOC investor, given NBC’s $12 billion Olympic broadcast contract and the IOC’s six US-headquartered global sponsors.

It would also mean that the IOC passes up the opportunity to use an LA Games to bring in new global sponsors from the world’s biggest economy – just as it has used Tokyo 2020 to sign Bridgestone and Toyota.

Saying no to Paris, again for the third time in succession, would also probably end France’s interest in bidding again for the Games in the foreseeable future, and run the risk of further emptying the dwindling pool of major European cities prepared to throw their hat into the ring.

So what will the IOC do?

There are clues in their recent behaviour.

First, a preference for long-term strategic deals – witness the NBC extension through 2032 (Thomas Bach’s first major deal as IOC President) and the recent Alibaba sponsorship through 2028 – rather than for playing the market.

And second, President Bach’s characteristically reformist statement back in December that the current bidding process “produces too many losers” and must be reviewed.

Go figure.

Now, making predictions in these interesting times in which we live is a risky business.

But assuming that the controversial Trump Presidency and the looming French Presidential election don’t derail the LA and Paris bids, I predict that when the IOC leaves Lima in September, they will do so having awarded the 2024 and 2028 Games simultaneously to Paris and LA.

And probably in that order, for three reasons.

One, because an LA 2028 Games will give President Bach the ideal timing to play the American market for the IOC’s next US broadcast deal beyond NBC’s current contract.

Two, because it will also give Bach significant leverage in his attempts to persuade his six US-based TOP sponsors to extend their current deals, all of which end into 2020, for eight years.

But most of all, because it will buy Bach and the IOC both time and two key partners in its battle to find a new relevance and credibility for a new era and a new generation.

No surprises, except maybe one: a look at LA 2024 sponsorship

The Los Angeles 2024 Olympic Bid published its Games budget overview last week, which included a first look at its estimated revenue from domestic sponsorship.

The headline of the release that accompanied LA’s budget talked about “No Surprises”. And I wasn’t surprised that the estimate of $1.93 billion was, by LA’s admission, conservative. That’s what Olympic bids always do when it comes to sponsorship forecasts. But I was surprised at just how conservative it was – in my view overly conservative.To put this into context.The US is the world's largest advertising and sports marketing economy, and in turn its media and brands are by far the biggest investors in Olympic media and sponsorships.

So I was expecting to see LA estimate the biggest-ever domestic sponsorship Games revenue.

But that's not how it played out.

Yes, the LA estimate would be a record for any completed Games to date. But even allowing for price elasticity of demand, having already signed 15 Tier One and 27 Tier Two partners, Tokyo 2020 appears to have already generated well over $2 billion from domestic sponsorship given its rate card of $128 million and $51 million respectively for Tier One and Tier Two deals.

So that's the new benchmark, from an ad market that's 25% the size of that of the US.

Another benchmark. The LA estimate is less than double London 2012’s final total of just over $1 billion, which was generated by a much, much smaller ad market - 12% of the size of the US - in the teeth of a recession.

When Tokyo won the right to stage the 2020 Games, I predicted that it could reach $2 billion of domestic sponsorship revenue. If LA wins the race for 2024, I believe that over $2 billion is a certainty and $3 billion highly likely.

I suspect that the two other models LA used would have reflected a similar scenario.

But LA didn’t need to run the risk of over-promising and under-delivering. A conservative $1.93 billion works for LA’s no risk budget, and even at the lower end of the scale, still comfortably eclipses the $1.086 billion from domestic sponsorship estimated by Paris, its chief rival in the 2024 race.

No surprise. No surprises.