Why the Premier League will not replace Barclays with another title deal

Ahead of The Brand Conference on 30th September, Premier League head of partnerships Tom Greenwood explains the strategy behind the league's decision not to seek a new title deal.

Why the Premier League will not replace Barclays with another title deal

British bank Barclays is entering its final year as title sponsor of the Premier League this season. Having replaced Carling as the title sponsor of the division in 2001, at first through its Barclaycard brand, Barclays will leave at the end of the 2015/16 season, and from 2015/16, for the first time since the league’s inaugural season in 1992/93, the Premier League will have no title sponsor. 

Barclays’ current three-year deal is believed to be worth UK£40 million per season. The league and its 20 member clubs are understood to have turned down a UK£45 million-a-season offer from drinks brand Diageo to replace Barclays in order to stick with their ‘clean brand’ decision. 

Talking to SportsPro ahead of a speaking appearance at The Brand Conference on 30th September, Premier League head of partnerships Tom Greenwood drills down into the strategy behind the decision not to seek a new title deal.

SP: Presumably a fair bit of thinking went into the decision not to seek another title partner once Barclays’ deal expires at the end of this season. If Barclays had wanted to continue, would you have changed your plans and gone with another deal?

Not necessarily. I’ll give you the background: Four years ago, 2010/11, we looked at the model in detail and we did a market consultation; not going out and selling things but asking, ‘what structurally do you think is right for the Premier League’? We had been renewing with Barclays year on year and hadn’t tested the market. The feeling at the time was that without knowing what the real value of the market for title sponsorship was, it was difficult to make a decision. You make your decision in a vacuum, really.

So three years ago, when we did the last Barclays deal, we agreed with the clubs not to build in any exclusive negotiating periods and that whatever happened we would test the market and see what was out there. We have had a fantastic relationship with Barclays, but being in control of your own destiny, having your own voice, being able to build equity in your own brand, is a great place to be. Ultimately if you don’t have a title sponsorship you can argue that the revenues you can bring in are less. 

Not if you play your cards right, but it becomes a bit of a numbers game. When we’re looking at potential deals, certainly in title sponsorship, we’re looking at the rights fee, the category, the exclusivity requirements, the impact on what our clubs can do, the amount of inventory, the brand fit. There are a lot of factors at play and ultimately you can only really judge each individual deal on its merit. 

When do the rest of your sponsorships expire and will we see a shift in the commercial structure once Barclays’ title deal is over?

They are all three years in line with our broadcast deals. They all run out at the end of this year, with the exception of EA – our sports technology and goal-line technology partnership which is contracted and announced until 2019, when our next Sky and BT deals expire. All the rest expire next summer so we have a lot to do in the meantime!

With a clean Premier League brand from next year, it’s easy to assume you’ll be looking for higher rights fees from the sponsors that you do sign?

You take away the title sponsor, it automatically has a positive impact on a lot of the clubs who are able to get that banking category back and capitalise on it. We definitely hope there would be an uplift in the value in what we’re offering from that perspective. There are all sorts of benefits but that is definitely one we hope to capitalise on. We are in the middle of a process of trying to go out and put together a really good group of brands that are on a level and not beholden and beneath a title sponsor. 

The Premier League is often referred to as the EPL or the BPL. I suppose we’ll now avoid that confusion?!

Absolutely. We have spent a lot of time and effort over the years promoting ‘Barclays Premier League’ through broadcast, through Barclays doing a lot of work with the press in the UK; we have lots of strong contractual links with all our broadcast deals to make sure they are doing it the right way. It will make my life a bit easier, I would say! I think there is a little bit of confusion. We know that people call it the EPL abroad. We don’t call it the EPL. But I think one of the real benefits will be that we will have clarity. If people want to call it the EPL then we are not going to stop them and there won’t be any contractual reasons to worry about it 

Premier League head of partnerships Tom Greenwood will speak at The Brand Conference, SportsPro’s two-day event dedicated to a top-to-tail examination of sport as a communications platform. For more information about the event, click here.