Football Federation Australia (FFA) is “within a couple of months” of signing up a major naming sponsor for the Socceroos, with three or four major brands believed to be in the running.
The FFA has been negotiating with interested parties for close to two years since Qantas pulled its naming sponsorship of the Australian football team in 2013, and the Socceroos went to Brazil without a major sponsor.
The Socceroos will also be without a major sponsor at the Asian Cup, but FFA's head of commercial Luke Bould said it was close to inking a deal.
“We don't have a naming rights partner as yet, but we're certainly having some encouraging discussions with a number of parties,” Bould told AdNews.
“More than one and less than five parties are involved in talks at the moment. We're pretty confident we'll get it done within a couple of months.”
Bould said that despite wall-to-wall coverage of the Socceroos during the World Cup, 2014 was a tough year in which to attract major sponsorship from an Australian brand.
“There's genuine interest out there, but it's been a tough year. Even though we've had a World Cup, we've only played one game in Australia since October 2013,” Bould said.
“It's difficult to sell a product when it's not being played in the country.
“We're about to go into an Asian Cup, a young team, a great coach, and then World Cup qualifiers kick off in June. So we'll have a draw and consistency on the back end of the Asian Cup, and that'll help us.”
Meanwhile, despite having a major tournament in its own backyard kicking off tonight, the FFA says it has been hampered in signing up any shorter-term sponsorship deals, such as one struck with Mondelez during the World Cup.
The Mondelez deal gave the FFA both a revenue and exposure boost during the tournament. However, the FFA says it has been unable to repeat the dose this time, largely as a result of the presence of the Asian Cup on Australia shores.
“The Asian Cup is in everyone's face. The short-term association people want is with the tournament, but we're not able to commercialise it,” Bould said.
While the tournament is being run in Australia, it is being run by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) rather than an Australian body.
Hence if brands want an association with the Asian Cup and Australia's participation in it, they need to apply to the AFC rather than the FFA.
“We can't grant them rights to the Asian Cup logo, the imagery, the name or anything,” Bould said.
“That's less of an issue when you don't have the event in your country, and it's more challenging when you do have it.”
Bould said the AFC was essentially a competitor for brand dollars.
“It's great to have the Asian Cup in Australia because it's going to be great for promotion of the game, but it is challenging from a commercial point of view,” Bould said. “It almost puts a competitor in the market for a period of time.”
“It can hurt you if suddenly there's another player selling football, selling hospitality packages, selling signage, and selling all those things.”
However, brands with an ongoing association with the FFA and the Socceroos will be leveraging their rights, even if they have to steer away from mentioning the Asian Cup.
Combining their sponsorship of the FFA and Foxtel's broadcast of the tournament, both NAB and Telstra will be running promotions over the coming weeks.
Meanwhile Cenovis Vitamins will have a point of sale promotion and official AFC Asian Cup sponsors such as Continental Tyres, Nike, Samsung and others will be getting in on the action too.
However, with Asian brands and business downunder for the tournament, there's a golden opportunity to sit down with potential commercial partners outside of Australia.
“The tournament is going to give us two opportunities, firstly to sit down with brands which might not be huge in the Australian market but secondly to connect current partners with a lot of business decision makers in the continent,” Bould said.
“It will reinforce to our current partners and any other potential partners that football is the game that connects the entire world, and the opportunities in the space are simply huge.”
On Monday, we'll take a look at how the FFA is planning to leverage its grassroots supporter base to entice brands in 2015.
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