Football is a sport that reaches hundreds of millions, possibly even billions, of people all over the world, with hordes of fans tuning in to see the top clubs play.
The game’s global reach and appeal has not gone unnoticed by many poker and gaming companies, who view football as one of the many ways to market their brands. This has led to a number of sponsorship deals between gaming companies and some of the world’s top football clubs, many of which are still going today.
Here are the most prominent gaming/football partnerships that are currently in place.
Winamax Poker and St. Etienne
French football club St. Etienne are decades removed from their glory days when they won five Ligue 1 titles and five Coupes de France between 1970 and 1981. That has not stopped Winamax Poker from being a key sponsor for the club, who have been back playing in the Ligue 1 for the last nine years.
It is a partnership that appears to be working for the company, should the statistics be anything to go by. According to Pokerscout, Winamax is currently eighth on the overall online poker traffic list, with a seven-day average of 1,320 players.
That puts Winamax in line with Bodog and puts it comfortably ahead of PokerStars’ French service. The latter fact is especially important considering that Pokerstars’ Spanish and Italian poker sites are by far the most popular in those countries.
PokerStars and Olympique Lyonnais (Lyon)
Winamax is not the only online poker company to see potential benefits from football sponsorship in France. Their largest rival in the European country, PokerStars, signed a media deal with Lyon at the start of this year as part of its desire to be the top poker service in the country.
As part of the deal, commercials for PokerStars’ French site will appear on Lyon’s official television channel and website, and PokerStars’ advertising has been put up at the club’s home ground, Stade Gerland.
Despite the media deal, PokerStars.fr is still behind Winamax in the poker traffic rankings, averaging 280 fewer players in a seven-day span. However, with the current Ligue 1 season still young, there is still a major chance for PokerStars to topple Winamax for the top ranking in France.
Bodog and Arsenal
Bodog has sought to capitalise on both the big football market and the growth of gaming and football in Asia by signing a sponsorship deal with Arsenal in August. The deal makes Bodog Arsenal’s “official Asian betting partner,” which involves developing marketing initiatives and consumer promotions with the club and company.
The deal has not yet boosted Bodog’s poker presence, with traffic numbers around the same as it was when the deal was announced. However, that may change now that the 2013/2014 Premier League season has gotten underway.
Arsenal are on the top of the Premier League with five games played in the current season, which means fans in Asia (and beyond) are likely to keep watching their games as the season progresses. That could keep the Bodog brand visible in a booming economic region with a population of over two billion.
Bwin.party’s European Club Sponsorships
Okay, so bwin.party has much more on their plate than just poker, but their PartyPoker brand is a prominent one in the poker world, and an important brand for the company. Bwin has cleverly used its place in the online gaming world to get sponsorship deals with the top football clubs in Europe.
Teams like Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus and Marseilles have all taken the company on as a key sponsor, which has made the bwin.party brand visible to hordes of football lovers throughout Europe and beyond.
The gaming company signed a sponsorship deal with Real Madrid back in 2007 and the team has won two La Liga titles and a Copa Del Rey since then, making them the sort of team bwin wishes to align itself with. Bwin also signed similar sponsorship deals with Bayern Munich and Manchester United just in time for the latter club’s Premier League winning season last year.
Those two deals have helped form a strategy of bwin.party to align themselves with Europe’s largest sporting clubs through sponsorships, something shown by bwin signing a number of similar deals this year. Italian club Juventus signed a deal with bwin.party in July, which was followed by a sponsorship deal with Belgian club Anderlecht in the same month.
French club Marseilles announced that it had also taken bwin.party as a club sponsor in August, which has made it the sixth top tier European club to be sponsored by the company.
Notable Former Partnerships
Sponsorship deals tend to change every few years in football, which means there are a number of gaming companies who have been football club sponsors in the past. This has especially been the case in the UK and France, where gaming and poker companies have long seen football sponsorship as a way to market their brands.
In France, Everest Poker and Betclic were key sponsors of Lyon until last year, before each party decided not to pursue another deal. Winamax also sponsored Paris St-Germain in the Ligue 1 before that deal ended and Middle Eastern airline Emirates became the club’s main sponsor.
English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur also had a long running partnership with Gibraltar-based gaming company Mansion, with that company’s logo previously featured on the club’s shirts. Prominent online gaming company Bet365 also previously had a shirt sponsorship deal with Stoke City, while 12Bet and Wigan Athletic once had a partnership.
Former English giants Nottingham Forest were once sponsored by Victor Chandler (who you may know better as BetVictor) as they aimed to get back into the top leagues. London-based Premier League club West Ham United also had SBOBET as its kit sponsor until earlier this year, when the club decided to take on foreign exchange firm Alpari FX as its kit sponsor.