Making a Corporate Sponsorship Work for You

In 2018, the Portmore United Football Club of the Jamaican National Premier League arrived in Costa Rica to play against local club Santos de Guapiles in an international qualifier for the CONCACAF Champions League. Emblazoned across the jerseys of the Portmore United players was the logo of Red Stripe, the most recognized beer of Jamaica, which happens to sponsor the entire league tournament in that Caribbean island nation.

The jerseys of the Santos players featured the logos of many commercial brands as well, but none of them were related to beer; there were wireless service providers, cable television companies, hardware stores, and even baked good brands, but not a single sponsor was a counterpart to Red Stripe. This detail did not go unnoticed by sports announcers and commentators who lamented the prohibition imposed by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports in Costa Rica, a country where beer brands are not allowed to sponsor professional sports. The color commentator during the match even mentioned that seeing the Red Stripe logo reminded him of a previous vacation he took in Jamaica, and he added that he planned to stop by the supermarket to pick up a couple of bottles on his way home.

Red Stripe is hardly the only beer brand that sponsors professional soccer leagues and clubs. The legendary Dutch brand Heineken, for example, sponsors not only the UEFA Champions League, arguably one of the most popular tournaments around the world, but also Major League Soccer in the United States and Canada. In Costa Rica, the aforementioned ministry takes the position of alcoholic beverages not being conducive to an athletic lifestyle, but by doing so it is missing out on millions of dollars that could be provided by strategic brand partnerships.

As a business owner or brand manager, you are expected to approach potential sponsorship agreements in a manner that work out not only for your company but also for the individual athlete or teams as well as consumers. The goal is to make the deal work not only for you but also for all stakeholders; in other words, you should seek out a mutually beneficial sponsorship that makes sense. In the case of Costa Rica, preventing beer brands from sponsoring football club does not make sense because it misses the point in terms of local culture. Casual football players who engage in five-on-five matches, for example, are known to enjoy a few beers and appetizers after a match; the same can be said about football fans who want to celebrate a club victory.

A sponsorship agreement should be highly related to lifestyle and culture as they apply to consumers. The National Football League, for example, is known to be very selective about its sponsors, and you can see how all of them relate to fans. Some of the best sponsorship deals are localized, and these are the type of situations you should seek. The neighborhood pizza restaurant that sponsors a local youth soccer league, for example, will probably get better results than a credit card that sponsors the NFL.

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