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Heineken renews Champions League sponsorship

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Heineken has agreed a three-year renewal of its global sponsorship deal with the Uefa Champions League, SportBusiness can exclusively reveal.

As previously reported, the firm was understood to be in advanced negotiations with the European governing body and its exclusive sponsorship sales agency Team Marketing, with fellow current Champions League sponsor Mastercard also on the cusp of renewing.

The Dutch brewer is now understood to have signed the contract with Uefa and an official announcement about the extension is expected soon. It would become the second brand to renew its Champions League ‘Global Sponsor’ rights after PepsiCo announced a renewal in July, also exclusively reported by SportBusiness.

The agreement covers the next Champions League cycle from 2024-25 to 2026-27 and means the brewing company will have had an association with the competition in some shape or form since 1994.

The company’s Amstel brand sponsored the tournament from that point until the main Heineken brand took over the rights in 2005. The Uefa competition, previously known as the European Cup, was rebranded and reformatted as the Champions League for the 1992-93 season.

It remains to be seen if Heineken will also renew the sponsorship deal between its zero-alcohol Heineken 0.0 brand and Uefa’s second-tier club competition, the Europa League, which is combined as a package with the third-tier Europa Conference League.

Heineken was also a Euro 2020 sponsor, the second tier of the federation’s national team football programme, and is a top-tier Uefa Women’s Football Partner, the uppermost tier in its women’s football sponsorship programme. Uefa is currently in the market for Euro 2024 sponsors while the Women’s Football Partner deal is not due to expire until 2025.

Team Marketing has the remit to sell the global sponsorship rights to all Uefa club competitions for the next cycle while CAA Eleven is the exclusive sponsorship sales agency for national team football. TRM Partners, the sponsorship sales agency owned by Two Circles, supports the confederation’s search for sponsors for its women’s football programme.

Flat fee
SportBusiness understands Heineken is paying a similar sum on a per-annum basis to its previous three-year deal with the competition.

The brand is known to have been one of the highest-paying brands in the Champions League sponsorship portfolio and sources said the flat fee ought to be seen as a course correction to bring its deal closer into line with other sponsors.

Team Marketing is facing increased revenue targets for the Champions League based on the heightened media value of the competition as format changes expand its total number of matches and teams taking part.

To help meet the targets, Uefa’s Champions League sponsorship offering for the next cycle will include one additional top-tier Global Sponsor position and a new secondary ‘supplier-style’ tier, designed to appeal to technology brands or companies who lack the financial clout to take a top-tier package.

Uefa and Team are aware that affordability is becoming an issue for some brands, so part of the thinking behind the new slots is that they will spread the burden of meeting the new sponsorship revenue targets.

Set against this, sister title SportBusiness Sponsorship reported PepsiCo’s deal to be worth around 20 per cent more than its agreement in the last three-year cycle. The uplift is partly explained by the company securing an enhanced package of rights that includes the player hydration rights and pitch-side exposure for its Gatorade brand.

Sources said the company was keenly aware of interest from Coca-Cola in sponsoring the Champions League, with one suggesting the rival brand had come closer than ever to snatching the rights from PepsiCo. But SportBusiness Sponsorship has been unable to determine exactly how advanced discussions got with the competitor.

There is also understood to be an uplift in Mastercard’s renewal, which is thought to have been agreed in principle and is now at the contracting phase.

In April it was revealed Uefa had also accepted three offers from brands in relation to its Europa League and Europa Conference League packages but the identities of the companies in question has yet to be revealed.

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Marketing & Sponsorship

Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Manchester United national stadium plan backed

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A vision for a new Manchester United ground that could double as a ‘Wembley of the North’ has been welcomed by council chiefs.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a co-owner of the club, has outlined his preference to replace Old Trafford with a ground that could be used as a national venue.

Trafford Council welcomed the proposal as part of its plans to regenerate the wider Trafford Wharf area.

But councillor Liz Patel said it would be up the club to fund a new stadium.

The club’s plans are a key element of Trafford Council’s Wharfside Development plans, which will go out to public consultation next week.

New stadium developments at Tottenham, Everton, and Manchester City have been highlighted by the council as good examples of how to regenerate an area and keep fans there for longer on match days.

Sir Jim told BBC sports editor Dan Roan that the 74,310-capacity Old Trafford had become “tired and in need of refurbishment”.

He said any plan to build a new stadium that could also be used as a national ground would require a “conversation” with the government about using taxpayer funds.

‘Great ambition’

Ms Patel, who is leading the council’s redevelopment plans, said a ‘Wembley of the North’ proposal “would be wonderful”.

“That is great ambition from Jim Ratcliffe and these plans match that in terms of the setting and the future of the area,” she said.

A new stadium built on adjacent land could cost around £2bn.

Ms Patel said the council would look for investment for the Wharfside plans, and “saw a role” for the council in “leading, guiding and securing” the funding.

“How United get together the finances for their own stadium refurbishment would be separate,” she said.

At a meeting of the council’s executive on Monday night, Ms Patel earned cross-party support for the regeneration plans, which could take up to 20 years realise.

She said Trafford Council had worked with Manchester United’s planning team to design improvements in the area for fans as part of the masterplan.

“We want to create a much more family-friendly space where people want to stay longer and have processional routes so it’s a lot safer for fans arriving on foot from tram stops or walking out from the city centre – as sometimes happens in European matches.”

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F1 Academy pens Tommy Hilfiger deal

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The all-female F1 Academy series has agreed a partnership with global lifestyle brand Tommy Hilfiger.

Contract:

  • Tommy Hilfiger will sponsor the entry of Spanish driver Nerea Martí
  • The brand will also design and provide all F1 Academy staff uniform

Context:

Tommy Hilfiger becomes the latest brand to support the upcoming season of F1 Academy, with Charlotte Tilbury and Puma already on board. There will be five designated partner liveries this season, in addition to each car supported by a Formula One team, which means there are two partnerships still to be announced.

This adds to Tommy Hilfiger’s existing partnership with the Mercedes Formula One team, first signed back in 2018, as well as its personal endorsement of Lewis Hamilton and, more recently, George Russell.

Comment:

“Tommy Hilfiger is one of the most recognised global lifestyle brands, so it is a great honour to welcome them to F1 Academy as an official partner,” said Susie Wolff, managing director of F1 Academy.

“Tommy Hilfiger is fully invested in our mission to improve female representation in motorsport, and their global brand platform will appeal to those outside of the motorsport world and help us to reach new audiences.

“I would like to personally thank Tommy and his team for sharing our vision and supporting a talented young driver in Nerea Martí.”

Coming next:

The F1 Academy season gets underway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in support of Formula One’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from 7th to 9th March.

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Nascar ‘in talks’ over Xfinity sponsorship extension

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Xfinity has been title sponsor of Nascar’s second-tier series since 2015, with the ten-year deal worth roughly US$200 million.

However, with that contract concluding at the end of this season, there are no guarantees that Xfinity will continue as title sponsor.

When the contract was first agreed, it made sense for Comcast to promote its newly launched Xfinity brand through NBC Sports, also owned by Comcast, which had signed a ten-year broadcast partnership with Nascar.

This media rights deal comes to an end this year but, with the second-tier Xfinity Series being carved out to The CW Network for US$800 million, the synergy between the two Comcast-owned properties is lost.

“It’s a little too early for us to give a really good answer on [whether the Xfinity Series asset is a necessity for a contract renewal],” Matt Lederer, vice president for branded partnerships and activation at Comcast, told SBJ.

“But I would say that as we’ve learned the sport over the last ten years, we’ve learned the ecosystem of Nascar has a lot of tentacles and there’s a lot of ways to engage with the fanbase.

“The Xfinity Series for us has been the gold star across all those areas, but it’s a little too early to say what a new deal would look like.”

In 2021, Comcast upgraded its Xfinity sponsorship deal with Nascar, becoming a premier partner of the Cup Series alongside Busch Light, Coca-Cola, and Geico. The brand also has a team deal with 23XI Racing, co-owned by National Basketball Association (NBA) icon Michael Jordan and current Nascar driver Denny Hamlin.

Lederer continued: “We’ve both had a strong relationship over the last ten years and I’ve said it many times, it’s been an extremely beneficial partnership to our brand and business and a very valuable partnership for the business and brand of Nascar.

“And what I would say is we’re really confident and optimistic that Nascar is doing all the right things to capitalise on all the changes going on within the racing industry as a whole, and we appreciate the changes that have been made over the last few years and the direction of the team and [Nascar President] Steve [Phelps] to further engage fans, find new fans – that’s fantastic and we share that optimistic view.

“Right now, we’re engaged with Nascar to explore what a potential continued relationship could look like across the sport as a whole.”

Nascar’s second-tier series moving to The CW Network will give Comcast pause for thought when considering this contract extension.

The CW is a largely unproven network when it comes to sports broadcasting, but its majority owner Nexstar has started to build a small rights portfolio, including LIV Golf and a package of 50 college football and basketball games from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

Whether this will be enough to convince Comcast to stick with its current arrangement or look for a restructured sponsorship deal remains to be seen.

With shifting consumer needs, the company could pivot towards its Xfinity Mobile brand, which was the primary sponsor on the 23XI Racing car of Tyler Reddick at Nascar’s last race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

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