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Volume 7 No. 149

Marketing and Sponsorship

Bayern Munich is reportedly "on the verge of completing negotiations" with BMW to replace German rival car manufacturer Audi as the club's official car partner, according to Ashish Khanna of INSIDE SPORT. Audi's sponsorship deal with the Bundesliga club will not expire until '25. However, reports suggest that BMW persuaded club President Uli Hoeness to replace Audi and is "also willing to pay a higher annual fee and purchase Audi's stake in the club as part of the deal." BMW, it is believed, would buy Audi's 8.33% stake in Bayern Munich, which it acquired for $105.3M in '11. On top of that, BMW is willing to pay more than the $35M per year that Audi currently contributes as part of its sponsorship deal. Meanwhile, Audi apparently approached Bayern with a €60M ($70M) deal to extend its contract with the club by a further five years, although Bayern's board is "supposedly in favour of switching to BMW" (INSIDE SPORT, 9/18).

A small, newly-founded football team in the "lower reaches" of English football "attracted international fame after its new shirt, inspired by the fight against nationalists in the Spanish Civil War, went viral in Spain and sold out," according to Smout & Williams of REUTERS. East London-based Clapton CFC is "only a few months old but was forced to stop taking orders" after receiving more than 5,000 requests for its new away shirt, which is in the colors of the Republican forces that fought against General Francisco Franco's Nationalists 80 years ago. Player-Manager Geoff Ocran said, "We never expected that sort of potential and media hype." He added that the club was only expecting to sell about 250 of the shirts. The red, yellow and purple shirt is "adorned" with three pointed stars -- the symbol of the Int'l Brigades that came to Spain to fight -- as well as the slogan "No Pasarán," an anti-fascist phrase meaning, "They shall not pass." The ethos of the club is led by its supporters, who split from nearby Clapton FC "after a dispute with its owner" and established a fan-owned club in June. While the fans that set up the new club have "a reputation for championing progressive causes," not all of the players were aware of the history of the 1936-39 civil war until the new design was chosen. Club captain Andrew Lastic said, "Initially, I just liked it just for the look of it. To know the meaning of it, and what it stands for, it's a very proud feeling to put it on" (REUTERS, 9/18).

Formula 1 signed a deal for more than $100M to "sell sponsorships to betting companies, signalling a radical shift for the sport under its new ownership," according to Murad Ahmed of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Liberty Media, which acquired F1 in '16, signed a contract with London-based marketing agency Interregional Sports Group for "global rights to gambling sponsorships in F1." ISG will "pay an upfront fee to Liberty" as part of the deal. The agency will "recoup its money" -- and hopes to profit -- by "striking a series of separate deals with gambling sponsors in different markets worldwide." Sponsors will be permitted to have their brands shown "trackside," such as through electronic billboards and on-screen graphics during televised races. Former F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "refused to accept endorsements from betting groups, believing they would tarnish the sport's glamorous image." But F1 Managing Dir, Commercial Operations Sean Bratches said that the deal was a "fan-centric move," as millions of viewers had "grown accustomed to gambling partnerships in other sports." Bratches added that the income would "improve the spectacle, funding teams that incur enormous costs to compete." Bratches did not comment on the deal's precise value. However, sources said that it amounted to "at least" $100M over five years. That would put it alongside F1’s "biggest sponsorship deals, such as with luxury watchmaker Rolex" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 9/18).

INTEGRITY CHECKS: CNBC's Adam Reed reported the F1-ISG deal "also involves integrity service Sportradar, which has come on board to help ISG and gambling companies use data to create markets and spot any suspicious betting patterns." Sportradar Managing Dir of Group Operations David Lampitt said, "Through this collaboration with Formula 1, we're delighted that fans will receive an exciting and safe betting experience and we look forward to further developing the F1 fan experience" (CNBC, 9/18).

Riot Games and Mastercard are preparing to announce a major global sponsorship centered around "League of Legends" esports, sources said, with one calling it the "biggest deal Riot has ever done." Few details are known, but Mastercard will first appear as a sponsor at the LoL World Championships set for Oct. 1-Nov. 3 in South Korea. A deal has been in the works for nearly a year, sources said. Riot declined comment; a rep for Mastercard did not return a message seeking comment. Mastercard's bet on the world's largest esports property will be celebrated throughout the nascent competitive video gaming industry, experts said, because it could convince other non-endemic brands to commit beyond the experimental, limited sponsorships that dominate esports today. "That's good news for everyone, not just Riot," said Catalyst Sports & Media Exec VP/Esports Avi Bhuiyan, who had no advance knowledge of the deal. "If you're another payment processor, or another brand thinking about esports, seeing someone at the caliber of Mastercard not testing, or learning, but really doing a global partnership -- you're even less out on a limb than you were before." For Mastercard, it gives the credit card brand a global property at a time when Visa has the Olympics and FIFA World Cup rights. Also, LoL gives Mastercard a path to younger fans who might be more likely to consider startups or other new entrants to the payment business. The deal also could help Riot push back against complaints from owners in the North American League Championship Series that it has been too slow to monetize the game, which still has the most viewers despite the revenue-generating success of Activision Blizzard's startup Overwatch League.

For more coverage of the business of esports, visit our partners, esportsobserver.com.

Proud day! Today “Project Notorious” finally comes to life with the introduction of my new Irish Whiskey; Proper 12. I have spent a lifetime studying this craft under the tutelage of my late Grandfather on my mother’s side, Christopher “Jakes” Moore, and I have put just over 3 years into the making of this liquid alone. I introduce to you @ProperWhiskey! Proper Irish Whiskey, from a Proper Irish man! Born and bred in the Dublin suburb of Crumlin, Dublin 12. Proper Twelve is who I am. I wanted to make an Irish whiskey emblematic of Irish culture as a whole, and something that would showcase the great skill we possess of distilling the best Whiskey in the entire world. One of the many amazing skills we possess on this great island. Proper Twelve is crafted at Ireland’s oldest distillery. It is made with the Isle’s freshest spring water and finest golden grain and single malt – it is pure liquid gold! This is Ireland’s whiskey, and it is my gift to the world. Another proud announcement for me in this venture is that with each case we sell, my company will donate to the first responders in each district the case is sold in. This donation plan will be in operation all over the world. These are the men and women who run into buildings while everyone else is running out. They are our real life heroes – Proper Heroes I look forward to joining all of you in a PROPER salute soon. Sláinte 🥃🇮🇪

A post shared by Conor McGregor Official (@thenotoriousmma) on

MMA fighter Conor McGregor launched his first Irish whiskey, called Proper No. Twelve. Launched under McGregor’s Eire Born Spirits company, the blended whiskey was created at the Old Bushmills Distillery in partnership with distiller David Elder, formerly of Guinness. It will make its debut in Ireland and the U.S. this month, with further expansion planned for '19 (THE SPIRITS BUSINESS, 9/18).

Liverpool named U.K.-based global financial technology company TigerWit its new official online foreign exchange trading partner. The partnership will focus on driving tech development throughout the U.K., Europe and Asia. The company will benefit from club hospitality and matchday sponsorship as it uses the partnership to raise brand awareness in its target markets (Liverpool). 

Serie A side Napoli announced a partnership with Hankook Tire Italia. The agreement is in place through May '20 (Hankook). 

The Chinese Super League, online retail platform Tmall and sports company Shankai announced two partnerships among them. Tmall becomes the premier comprehensive e-commerce partner of the CSL for the next five years. Shankai becomes the exclusive operator of CSL merchandises and the exclusive operator of the league's and the clubs' Tmall merchandise flagship stores (YUTANG SPORTS, 9/14).

Chinese sports events operation company Irena and sports insurance company Baozhun Niu announced plans to co-establish a sports insurance company called Baozhun Sports in Beijing. Irena authorized Baozhun Sports as its exclusive insurance supplier to "cater to the insurance needs of all the events operated by Irena and its affiliated companies and Irena’s sports businesses." These events include NBA Global Games China, Volleyball Super League and the China Open (YUTANG SPORTS, 9/18).

Formula 1's Mexican Grand Prix announced a partnership with men's health charity Movember on Monday. The tie-up "aims to drive awareness of November's fund-raising campaign in which men are encouraged to grow moustaches" (REUTERS, 9/17).

Cristiano Ronaldo unveiled Nike's new CR7 Chapter 7 boots. The front of the boot is silver with red No. 7s designed to "pay homage to the player's number." The boots, which have Ronaldo's signature on the heels, are the final installment of the "CR7 chapters" (London DAILY MAIL, 9/18).

The China Open appointed Chinese tech company Sogou as the tournament's designated translation support. Sogou will launch the translation tool, Sogou Fanyibao, on Wednesday, with the tool  "being designated as the official translation tool for the China Open and given to players at the event" (YUTANG SPORTS, 9/18).