In Sport Sponsorship

Unfortunately, the one between sponsorship and hooligans can be a tough combo to deal with. Can a sponsoring brand have problems because of the team’s supporters? Fans, especially in some disciplines, love their team madly. Attached to this visceral love for their team, sometimes, there is a profound dislike for the opponents.


Team sports are generally those that suffer from this issue

Football and other disciplines strongly linked to the geographic origin of the team, may show us the worst side of supporting from time to time.

In football, for example, you rarely see a fan cheering for the opposing team. An exception, perhaps the only one I remember in the last 20 years, is the case of Cristiano Ronaldo‘s overthrow in the Champions League match between Real Madrid and Juventus, when the whole Juventus Stadium, albeit in front of a heavy defeat, could not but applaud the athletic gesture of a great champion. In the vast majority of cases, we hear booing and insults, or witness fights and riots, to the point that stadiums and their surroundings need to be protected with police, weapons and armed escorts.

Can this parochialism influence the buying choices of a fan? Sadly, it can. And the connection between sponsorship and hooligans can become a hot potato to handle.

Supporters and sponsors have a special bond

We know there is a special relationship between the supporters of a team and the sponsors. This relationship of sympathy and preference results in the purchase of products and services by the fan.

Let’s be frank: do I choose the bank that sponsors my favorite team or that of my archenemy? Do I pick the car brand associated with the squad I hate or any other brand? Give the fan the opportunity and he will choose the brand associated with his team or beloved athlete, rather than the one close to their opponents (women are less affected by this aspect than males *).

Therefore, this aspect must also be addressed when we face a sponsorship program; we should not only think with our guts, as a fan, but rationally. We have to think about the target of our brand/company and what we want to achieve. And not focusing on the games that we’d like to go to watch.

If we stick to football, the moment that unites everyone under the same flag is connected to the Euro Cup or the World Cup. Wonderful events whose weakest point -marketing-wise- is the fact that they are held every four years.

If we want to be there for our customers, season after season, and we keep in mind what we have just mentioned, maybe we also look at the sports that at first sight do not seem as popular as football but which are fortunate because they do not divide.

At the time of choice, the CEO and the marketing director must always remember this.

It would be interesting (and I reserve the right to do the exercise) to compare the number of supporters of each single Serie A team with the number of supporters of the stars of some other less visible and popular sports.

If you want to talk about sponsorship and alternatives to football such as motorsports and MotoGP we can always be reached at



*Source: Fan DNA Survey, August 2014, total for eight countries (USA, UK, Germany, Mexico, Malaysia, China, Japan, Australia), respondents aged 16-65 at least a little interested in sport (80-95% of total age group population) n=24,024

Riccardo Tafà
Riccardo Tafà
Riccardo was born in Giulianova, graduated in law at the University of Bologna and decided to do something else. After a stint at ISFORP (public relations training institute) in Milan, he moved to England. He began his career in London in PR, first at MSP Communication and then at Counsel Limited. Then, following his unhealthy passion for sport, he moved to Jean Paul Libert's SDC and started working in two and four-wheelers, this was in 1991/1992. A brief move to Monaco followed, where he worked alongside the owner of Pro COM, a sports marketing agency founded by Nelson Piquet. He returned to Italy and started working in the first person as RTR, first a consulting firm and then a sports marketing company. 
Back in 2001 RTR won the ESCA award for the best sports MKTG project in Italy in the year 2000. Among other things, RTR obtained the highest score among all categories and represented Italy in the ESCA European Contest. From that moment on, RTR will no longer participate in other national or international awards. Over the years he takes some satisfaction and swallows a lot of toads. But he is still here, writing in a disenchanted and simple manner, with the aim of giving practical (unsolicited) advice and food for thought.
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