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September 29, 2009updated 04 Apr 2017 1:12pm

On the ball

Standard Chartereds $130 million deal to sponsor UK football club Liverpool illustrates once again how important the sport is to the international banking industry The majority of international tournaments, including next years World Cup in South Africa, are all now being supported by banks Dan Jones reports.Standard Chartereds four-year shirt sponsorship deal with leading UK football club Liverpool is the latest in a long line of high profile tie-ups between financial institutions and football clubs

By Dan Jones

Standard Chartered’s $130 million deal to sponsor UK football club Liverpool illustrates once again how important the sport is to the international banking industry. The majority of international tournaments, including next year’s World Cup in South Africa, are all now being supported by banks. Dan Jones reports.

Standard Chartered’s four-year shirt sponsorship deal with leading UK football club Liverpool is the latest in a long line of high profile tie-ups between financial institutions and football clubs. The £80 million ($130 million) agreement will see Standard Chartered’s name and logo appear on the Liverpool shirt from July 2010 onwards.

From the financial services industry’s point of view, football’s truly global nature makes it an obvious candidate for sponsorship, even in the case of an Asia-focused bank sponsoring a UK football club. Standard Chartered said its sponsorship will “provide the platform to significantly step up the bank’s brand awareness across its core markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East”.

John Peace, Standard Chartered's chairman; and Christian Purslow, Liverpool FC's CEO

Standard Chartered spokesman Tim Baxter told RBI that Liverpool’s global fan base encompasses some 130 million fans, well over half of whom are to be found in Asia.

Baxter cited figures of 6 million fans in India and 5 million in Thailand, though it is China which has by far the largest single fan base.

“Liverpool have about 60 million fans in China… We have done a lot of work on this and from our point of view there is a considerable overlap between Liverpool’s international fan base and Standard Chartered’s markets,” he said.

That overlap could increase still further if Standard Chartered emerges as the winning bidder of the Chinese, Indian and Malaysian banking assets currently being sold by Royal Bank of Scotland.

“Liverpool has almost 90,000 hours of television coverage per year, so you can see immediately that the deal has good value for us,” Baxter added.

For now, Liverpool’s games against the continent’s best teams will more likely be associated with UniCredit, given the Italian bank’s newfound role as sponsor of the Champions League competition for the next three years. Speaking to RBI in July, however, UniCredit deputy CEO Roberto Nicastro said that the bank was not expecting to sell more products on the back of the sponsorship and instead saw the deal as invaluable method of boosting brand awareness (see RBI 617).

A brand differentiator

Football’s ability to be a key brand differentiator in mature markets has not gone unnoticed by Asian banks either. South Korea, home to one of the most developed consumer banking markets on the continent, has played host to a variety of football-related sponsorship deals and product innovations since the last World Cup, held in Germany in 2006.

The offers included Woori Bank’s commitment to raise interest rates on its one-year time deposits by 0.2 percent every time South Korea’s star football player, Park Ji-Sung, scored a goal during the tournament. Shinhan Bank, meanwhile, offered discounted currency rates to customers who had tickets for World Cup games in Germany.

The advent of the 2010 World Cup, to be held in South Africa, has once again led to a spate of South Korean football sponsorship initiatives, most notably in the shape of Hana Bank, which in June 2009 became the official sponsor of the South Korean national football team.

Elsewhere the focus is even more long-term: in Brazil, Itaú-Unibanco is banking on its sponsorship of the 2014 World Cup as a means of fostering a sea-change in consumer payment habits.

“Credit cards are not the preferred means of payment in soccer stadiums or any sports arenas, but we are pretty much creating a network right now to change that through discounting programmes,” Itaú-Unibanco’s director of credit cards Carlos Zanvettor told RBI.

All eyes on South Africa

But it is South Africa which is home to the major bank-led football sponsorship deals thanks to the 2010 World Cup. While FirstRand is the exclusive banking sponsor of the tournament, two of the country’s other leading banks now have well-established football branding agreements in place: Absa, through its sponsorship of South Africa’s top-tier football league; and Standard Bank, via its sponsorship of the African Cup of Nations and a host of other pan-African tournaments.

On 22 September Standard Bank announced that it was reaffirming its commitment to African football with the signing of an eight-year deal with the Confederation of African Football (CAF). The bank will also use former star Abedi Pele, its chief football ambassador, to host an eight-country tour across the continent, giving fans the chance to see the African Cup of Nations Trophy.

“I think the World Cup is going to be fantastic for South Africa. We are big sponsors of South African football so we are obviously going to maximise our exposure, and that is always good for a bank,” said Absa CEO Maria Ramos, speaking to RBI earlier in September (see RBI 618).

Extensive marketing campaign

In terms of World Cup sponsorship, it was FirstRand Group that stole a march on its rivals back in 2006 when it became the financial services National Supporter for the 2010 World Cup at a cost of $30 million.

The group’s banking subsidiary, First National Bank (FNB), subsequently embarked upon an extensive marketing and product campaign which has reaped rewards for the company.

Speaking to RBI, FNB brand director Derek Carstens said that the bank had improved its share of the country’s retail banking market by several percentage points on the back of the deal.

“Our research showed there is an extraordinarily high propensity for people to do business with companies who sponsor the World Cup, because it’s such a big popular event for the mass market. In terms of market share, we were sitting at about 20 percent and were looking to go up to 26 percent.”

Carstens, whose work with FNB has led to him being seconded to the World Cup organising committee as chief marketing officer for the 2010 tournament, oversaw a huge branding initiative which has involved the launch of several products and services, a programme building artificial pitches around the country, the installation of 2010 countdown clocks at national airports, the airing of a Countdown 2010 television show, and promotions involving ticket, soccer ball and ‘Kuduzela’ instrument giveaways.

Yet FNB’s first target market was not consumers but its staff, according to Carstens.

“We took about a quarter of our tickets available to us and made those available to our staff, with the idea of improving their product knowledge so they could serve our customers better. You had to pass a knowledge test every quarter – only if you got over 60 percent could you go into the draw for tickets,” he said.

“18,000 of our staff participated over a two-year period, and it really succeeded in raising product awareness.”

Ticket giveaways were also a key pillar of FNB’s wider product campaigns, which often saw the promotions linked to more than one product in an attempt to boost the bank’s cross-sell ratios.

“The tickets are like gold dust, so we made a large proportion of our tickets available to our customers providing they conformed to certain behaviours with regards to buying and using products,” said Carstens.

“Quite a lot of the ticket promotions were linked to a number of actions – swipe cards, debit cards and multiple card usage for example. You had to exhibit one, two or even three types of behaviours. It’s very much driven by multiple product usage.”

Linked to a savings account

FNB also linked sales of World Cup footballs to a savings account, but its most innovative cross-purpose promotion was the launch of the Kuduzela earlier this summer.

Based on a Kudu horn, an old African instrument, the Kuduzelas were promoted as a way of expressing support for the national team, and were linked to the purchase of an FNB prepaid card account. Carstens said the bank ordered some 150,000 of the instruments and promptly sold them all within two months.

FNB has also leveraged its mobile banking platform, giving away Kuduzelas to customers who topped up their airtime via FNB’s mobile service.

Other benefits have also arisen from the sponsorship deal: FirstRand has been able to work more closely with World Cup sponsors from other sectors, with Carstens optimistic that there would be more opportunities for cross-promotion in future.

“Visa has been an important partner – we’re the biggest Visa issuer in the country and they are one of the primary worldwide sponsors. We’ve also been able to work with other sponsors such as Adidas,” he explained.

The bank has worked to ensure that its relationship with football fans does not expire at the end of the 2010 tournament: its pitch-building programme is helping it to build an ongoing presence in specific communities, creating a platform via which staff from local FNB branches can go and do business, according to Carstens.

He concluded: “We’ve seen a really good uptake in all product lines, and our market share is now where we were aiming for. Quantifying that in terms of the value of the deal has produced a very handsome return on equity for us”.


Major bank-football sponsorship deals, ranked by country, 2009




Start date




Football Federation Australia





Barclays Premier League




Standard Chartered

Liverpool FC





2010 World Cup





2011 Women’s World Cup





2014 World Cup





Werder Bremen FC





Valerenga FC; Lillestrom FC




Standard Bank

African Cup of Nations





UEFA Champions League




Clydesdale Bank

Clydesale Bank Premier League




RHB Bank

RHB Singapore Cup


$350,000 pa

South Africa

Standard Bank

Kaiser Chiefs FC



South Africa


Absa Premier Soccer League


$9m pa

Pan-South America


Copa Libertadores



South Korea

Hana Bank

Hana Bank FA Cup



South Korea

Hana Bank

National team sponsor



South Korea

Kookmin Bank

Kookmin Bank FC









Nationwide Building Society

National team sponsor for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland



Source: RBI

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