We'd like to thank everyone who took the time to complete the recent Sponsorship Survey carried out on the Harlequins website. We were very pleased by the positive feeling towards our current sponsorship programme and the level of commercialization at the club.
The results from the comments section of the survey have thrown up quite a few common themes and questions so I thought I'd follow up with a quick 'Q&A' to try and answer some of these burning issues!
I much prefer the current sponsorship situation whereby there is no 'naming' aspect - i.e. we are not NEC Harlequins. I felt that this was a case of over-commercialization of the club, and should not be repeated in future.
I agree with the naming-rights issue. One of the things that we are particularly proud of is the history and heritage of the club, and the brand and the Harlequins name are integral to this.
In actual fact, a naming rights deal can no longer be entered into under the agreement with Premier Rugby so this sort of sponsorship won't happen again in the future anyway.
I think it's a fine balance between making people aware of the sponsors and them over dominating proceedings. For example, some premiership club's shirts are more recognizable by the sponsors than the team colours!
I don't like the large Etihad logo on the shirt. Why has this changed from previous years?
I have become very aware of Etihad Airways since being a member of Quins and I love the advertising on the shirts
It is always a fine balance between generating enough revenue to sustain the team and being seen to 'sell out' to commercial entities. I won't comment on other teams but we are very protective of the Harlequins shirt as it is a big part of our brand and therefore unless you are one of our major partners, shirt branding is not an option.
I know that some people would prefer to have no branding but I think we have struck the right balance.
The Etihad branding moved to the front of the shirt last season as it wasn't clear enough in the top right quarter. The NEC branding worked in that position because it was three simple letters but the Etihad Airways logo needed more space to be impactful.
I'd like to see a better breakdown of what the sponsors put into the club
Although most people are aware of the importance of sponsorship revenue, it may be useful to publicize how this is spent, e.g. Etihad has enabled Quins to develop x number of youngsters etc.
As a Member who is interested in the profitability of Harlequins FC, I would like to know more about the revenue that is generated from sponsors.
We don't disclose specific information on what sponsorship contracts are worth due to confidentiality clauses in our contracts however the overall sponsorship revenue for Harlequins is well over £1 million a year, with central sponsorship and TV rights bringing in a further £2 million which represents just over 25% of the clubs overall income. This income goes into the pot so it's not attributed to specific areas of the business, so you can't say for example that without Etihad we wouldn't have signed X player, but you can say that the sponsorship income is a significant revenue stream that helps to develop and sustain the business.
A bigger sponsor presence on a match day would be good, for example trade stands, demonstrations, giveaways, more half time entertainment etc.
The Etihad kicking competition on the pitch is entertaining as most people are so dreadful!
I'm happy with the level of sponsorship involvement in match day - I think it is a good balance
The Etihad Rugball game at half time is rubbish, but highly amusing rubbish
They need to promote themselves a lot more, I go to every home match and all I see is the ad boards around the pitch. No-one's ever given me a toy. Or free beer!
For me sponsorship is all about improving the finances of the club to allow us to compete at the highest level. I care less about the match day experience, it is the match I come to see
The phrase about pleasing all the people all the time certainly seems to apply to the issue of match day activation and half time entertainment! Some want more, some want less, some aren't bothered either way. Again, we have to try and find the right balance. We try to help our sponsors to activate their sponsorships as much as possible but we are also aware that people don't like to be sold to or have it forced upon them. The overall feedback from this survey is that we are getting it about right. We could perhaps do more and more varied activities, as long as it remains optional for supporters and not at all pushy.
By the way - we have given out free beer before, and the Etihad Rugball Challenge is harder than it looks!
I think there are probably too many sponsors...the result being that the smaller ones are submerged by the bigger ones. I know that is not what Quins want to hear!
Our sponsors are structured in a pyramid with Etihad at the top, Greene King, Norton Rose, LV= and Eteach in the middle tier as Official Sponsors and eight Official Suppliers in the third tier (Alfa Romeo, Blake Lapthorn, Brita, Corney & Barrow, Eurostar, Kooga, Maximuscle, Sunsail). We deliver to all our sponsors and suppliers in accordance with where they are in the pyramid.
We value all of our sponsors but it is only right that those sponsors that give the club the most should receive the most in return. The number of sponsors that a club has is really dependent on how much inventory we have to sell. We won't try to shoehorn a sponsor in if there isn't room, as it clutters the space and devalues the existing packages.
It is interesting to hear this put in a negative light. We want our bigger sponsors to stand out more - otherwise we aren't doing our job properly!
Apart from the main current and past sponsors (e.g. Etihad, NEC, Lexus, LV) I can't really tell which advertisers at the ground are sponsors and which are not sponsors
With the exception of two perimeter boards on the west touchline (Wiles Greenworld and ADP), all of the brands that you see within the stadium are sponsors (some are Premier Rugby or Heineken Cup sponsors). We try to ensure that our advertising space is reserved for brands that are willing to engage and support the club through sponsorship rather than sell it for advertising. Our sponsorship pyramid (as long as it is full!) uses all our branding space and therefore we don't have the inventory to sell outside of this. It also helps us to keep a clean, uncluttered space for our existing sponsors.
I find it a shame that NEC are no longer involved!
NEC, having sponsored the club for 12 years, decided to step down as title sponsor at the end of the 2006-7 season, however they do still have an involvement with the club and have supported Harlequins in the development of the Ernest Bevan School project which has enabled us to employ a full-time coach in this school with a view to developing rugby in a non-traditional rugby area. The project will hopefully attract some promising youngsters into rugby union, who might otherwise have been lost to the sport. NEC are committed to sponsoring the Harlequins Community Dept until the end of the 2009-10 season.
The sponsors seem to change quite regularly and it's never clear how much support each sponsor gives
Harlequins has an excellent record for retaining sponsors. NEC was the longest standing sponsorship in the Premiership and the likes of Eteach and Norton Rose have been with us for 7-8 years. We try to make sure that when we enter into a sponsorship with a brand we are clear on their objectives and then work with them to help continually activate their sponsorship to help keep it relevant to their business needs. It is much easier to renew a sponsor than to go out every 2-3 years and find a new one so we work hard to make them want to stick around! I don't think we have a bad record for retention and the club didn't lose a single sponsor during the relegation year which speaks volumes for the commitment shown to and from our sponsors.
Hopefully the way the stadium is now branded helps to denote who the Main Sponsor and Official Sponsors are. Aside from the pitch perimeter all the other branding belongs to our 'Big 5' - Etihad Airways, LV=. Norton Rose, Eteach and Greene King.
Club sponsors are apparently important, but I would almost prefer to pay more for the season ticket and have less sponsor involvement as allying a sports team with a sponsor cheapens both 'brands' and tries to invent 'synergies' that are patently purely financial.
Firstly, I hate the word synergy and never use it! Secondly, I think you might be in the minority for wanting to pay more to see less sponsorship. The price of your season ticket would have to go up significantly (at least double) if you were to subsidize the revenue lost from sponsorship. Finally, I think that there are some excellent sponsorships out there that don't 'cheapen' either brand. These are the sponsorships that really work and benefit both the rights-holders and brands beyond the obvious financial gains.
The Etihad sponsorship of our Curtain Raiser Cup is a great example of how sponsorship works. From their perspective they have significantly increased their brand awareness and have engaged with our supporters and we now have a much bigger and better competition as a direct result of their involvement (and some considerably hard work from our Community Dept!). We had an increase of 35% in the number of participants in the competition last year, the competition looks more like an event with the Etihad branding and giveaways and the feedback from parents, coaches and players has been overwhelmingly positive. This is not a case a sponsor 'piggybacking' an already successful programme but looking at the club to see where they can add value and improve areas of the business, not just in financial terms.
As one of the other comments said, "Ethiad Airways is renowned for professionalism and quality and this is a trait that Quins has compared to other clubs. The image of having a sponsor of equal stature is important to the image and professionalism portrayed by the club."
We have to make sure that the brands that we associate with Harlequins fit with what we are and what we are trying to achieve, not just attract investment.
How much will the current financial crisis affect our main sponsors?
Obviously it is a tough time at the moment and sport and sports sponsorship is certainly not immune to this. We have already seen several major sponsorships in other sports not renewed or terminated and it is something that we are acutely aware of.
We are in the process of meeting with all our sponsors and suppliers at the moment, as we normally would at this time of year, to discuss renewals and extensions. Fortunately, we are looking like we will be in a good position for the start of the 2009-10 season but we never take it for granted.
Themed days are a good idea like Abu Dhabi day and I think you should do more of this. I did enjoy the bird of prey last year, very impressive.
Sponsorship levels are good, but there could be more razzamatazz. The Abu Dhabi day last season was very good.
More themed events on match-day would be interesting.
Abu Dhabi Day will be taking place again at the Newcastle game and we are working on it being more prominent this season. We are keen to get sponsors involved in these kinds of days to help them to activate their sponsorship further. Abu Dhabi Day also gives us the opportunity to engage with other brands linked to Abu Dhabi. Last year Shangri-La Hotels and the Abu Dhabi Tourist Authority were involved with the day so it's a good way for us to widen our reach in the area.
The bird of prey was great last year, although I was worried that it wouldn't come back until twenty minutes into the second half!
How do you work with sponsors to promote the club?
It would be good to hear more about how the sponsors and club interact. A lot of the time is just seems that the only interest the two parties have in each other is for the sponsors paying the club to use its kit/ground as a billboard. I would like to hear in which other ways, apart from financially, the sponsors support the club and vice versa.
We work with all our sponsors so that their sponsorship is more than 'just a billboard.' For example, this week is the Norton Rose City Scrum Cup which is a great networking event for us as well as Norton Rose and helps Harlequins to promote itself as the London club within the city.
We have done a lot of activity with Etihad to promote Harlequins in the Middle East including assisting with the Abu Dhabi Junior Rugby Festival, working with the newly re-named Abu Dhabi Harlequins, sending players to Abu Dhabi to help promote the club and the sponsorship and working on coach development with the Abu Dhabi Harlequins coaches who shadowed Dean Richards and his coaching team a couple of weeks ago. This is all as an extension to the Etihad sponsorship.
The sponsorships through the Etihad Curtain Raiser Cup and Land Rover coaching clinics have really enhanced our match day offering to the community clubs. Corney & Barrow have done wine tastings and helped us with Ladies day last year, Sunsail offer discounts to our supporters and gave away a boat last season, Greene King have done sampling sessions with the promotional girls, Alfa Romeo and Brita are running competitions, Eteach ran "Eteach Teacher's Day" last weekend and we are in talks with LV= at the moment about their activation plans.
Sponsorship is often seen as a way for a sponsor to engage with supporters, but we also use it the other way around. Many of our sponsors have large databases of customers so we can promote the club through these channels to help raise our profile. The Big Game marketing campaign integrated all our sponsors databases and communication channels to ensure that we got the message across to as wider audience as possible which was really successful. In fact, the whole marketing campaign for The Big Game has been shortlisted for the 'Best Integrated Marketing Campaign' Award at the Sports Industry Awards later in the year.
The sponsors need to offer benefits/discounts directly to Harlequins members
More freebies and giveaways
Can Season Ticket Holders get discounts from sponsors?
Unsurprisingly, one of the running themes of the survey was giveaways and discounts for supporters and Season Ticket Holders. We have run sponsor offers and discounts in the past and this is something that we are always looking to do more of.
I think the key is the communication of offers and this is something that we need to work on. We have an idea of how to improve this next season, particularly for Season Ticket Holders and Members, so watch this space!
I think the flags have looked fantastic this season so please keep bringing them along to games!
I hope this has helped give a bit more of an insight into the sponsorship programme at Harlequins. Thanks again for those of you who took the time to do the survey. The winner of the free season ticket will be announced on the 1st April. We will be doing other research soon so please take the time to complete the surveys as we value your feedback on what we are doing right and where we can make improvements. You also have some great ideas, although we might give the one about Harley and Charlie skydiving from an Etihad plane a swerve, if that's alright...!
Harlequins fan Ed Atkin won the Etihad Airways 'Up and Under' competition at the Northampton Saints game. As a result, he and a friend have won a holiday to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.