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Sponsorship Perspectives on Euro 2016 by Dr Leah Gillooly

Sponsorship can bring numerous benefits to brands, from building brand awareness to enhancing brand image, fostering relationships with customers and showcasing the brand’s products and services.  Therefore, through sponsoring EURO 2016 the sponsors will be hoping to tap into these many benefits.  Particularly prominent is the impact on brand image, with sponsors seeking the transfer of positive associations from the event, such as prestige, excellence, glamour, fun and excitement, to their brand.  Coming early on in a fantastic summer of sport, sponsors will be hoping also to tap into fans’ passions for football by associating themselves with the tournament.

While sponsors are hoping for the transfer of positive associations from the event to their brands, there is always the potential with sponsorship for negative associations to transfer in the event of a scandal or some other negative publicity around EURO 2016.  Football’s governing bodies, including EURO 2016 organiser UEFA, have received much negative publicity recently around issues of corruption and this has been a concern for several sponsors in terms of the possible negative impact on their brands from being associated with organisations seen as being corrupt.  The EURO 2016 sponsors will be hoping that a successful tournament helps to divert attention away from the goings on within UEFA towards what is happening on the pitches.  While I don’t know what agreements individual brands have in place, it is becoming increasingly common for sponsors to put release clauses in their contracts so that they can quickly terminate a sponsorship deal in the event of some scandal affecting the sponsored property, in this case UEFA or EURO 2016.  Where in the past some sponsors have stuck by, particularly athletes, in cases of negative publicity, more recent cases such as Maria Sharapova’s positive drug test have seen sponsors making swift moves to distance themselves from the sponsored property.  To me this appears more to signal a shift in attitudes towards risk among sponsors seeking to protect their investments rather than any hard evidence that consumers are more readily attributing negative associations to sponsors where the property they are sponsoring faces some scandal.

In terms of the associations held by EURO 2016, as a sporting event there is always the question over the suitability of sponsors such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola who sell what are seen as unhealthy products.  As with their Olympic sponsorships, these brands are long-standing sponsors of the European Football Championships and both brands have done a lot for the sport, both at elite and grass-roots levels to encourage participation.  Therefore, through their sponsorship activation activities, they are attempting to address the criticism of their perceived lack of fit with the sporting events.