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Sponsorship SOS: TeamViewer and Manchester United

Sponsorship SOS: TeamViewer and Manchester United

“I will boycott your products and support your competitors until you terminate your commercial partnership with the Glazer family.”

Just one of the current 1,538 one-star reviews that sit on TeamViewer’s Trust Pilot page. To say it’s been a difficult few days for the Manchester United shirt sponsor would perhaps be an understatement.

TeamViewer, along with other Manchester United partners, find themselves in a sponsorship worst-case scenario. In trying to get their message across to the owners of the football club, the Manchester United fans have somewhat ingeniously taken their protest directly to where it really hurts – the main financial backers of the club.

The impact on TeamViewer should not come as a surprise. By closely aligning themselves with specific clubs, leagues or athletes, sponsors do leave themselves at the mercy of the behaviours of those properties and their stakeholders. It’s also exactly the reason why sports sponsorships are so powerful because they enable brands to immerse themselves into an area of fan passion and loyalty that can directly transfer to the sponsor. On the rare occasion where this passion and loyalty moves to the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, as is the case with Manchester United, the sponsors inevitably go down with the rightsholder.

This is why a thorough understanding and detailed background research must be conducted before committing to a partnership. Although an incredibly successful club with a huge global following, the owners of the football team have never received much love, and this should have been firmly placed in the weakness/threats segments of a comprehensive SWOT analysis. To say that TeamViewer and other partners should have seen this coming would be rather unfair; the club’s global reach far outweighing the unknown impact of what was then an unheard entity in the form of the European Super League.

So where does TeamViewer go from here? At the time of writing, there has been no formal recognition or statement from the company concerning the protests. As we’ve previously discussed, in a time of crisis, communications should come to the fore. Knowing how to respond calmly and clearly to fast changing, unpredictable scenarios, how to generate responsive statements promptly, and how to keep business wheels on the track is vital.

We’re certain that urgent discussions must currently be taking place between the club and its partners to reassure them that their investment and association with Manchester United is safe. However, now that the fans have very clearly made their point known, these expressions of anger are unlikely to dissipate until change occurs. In this case that can only be a change in ownership of the club.

If that doesn’t occur, then it puts TeamViewer and other partners in a very compromising position. When spending £235 million over five years in a deal that relies heavily on integrating and speaking directly to Manchester United fans, it’s pivotal that they become advocates of your brand. If this isn’t happening, and even worse the fans are actively setting out to damage your reputation, the promised return on the £235 million begins to look very unlikely.

Our advice to TeamViewer? Now would be a very good time to review the details of the sponsorship contract, understanding the grounds for termination and whether Manchester United are in any way in material breach of the contract. Much like external communication is of vital importance, so is internal comms, with regular interaction between both parties required to face up to concerns, questions and actions, and respond accordingly.

As previously mentioned, without the owners stepping back then it’s difficult to see how TeamViewer can stay as a partner to the club. If it does so then it risks further damaging its reputation, hurting its relationships and negatively impacting its revenue. Contract rights permitting, the correct thing to do would be to walk away. In doing so the brand can recover, regain the support of the fans, come out of this in a positive light, and begin rebuilding its status away from Manchester United.

There is no denying that this week’s activities would have sat rather uncomfortably with many leading partners of other top football clubs who had associated themselves with the breakaway European Super League. As great believers in the power of sponsorship, we of course don’t want to see brands put off entering partnerships because of potential risks. However, knowing how to respond and carefully considering get-out clauses during contract negotiations is of utmost importance.

At SQN we pride ourselves on being a multi-faceted agency that encompasses both a sponsorship and PR/comms arm to our business. That puts us in the formidable position of not only being able to thoroughly research and place brands in the right partnerships but also means if things do go wrong, we know exactly how to respond to them in a calm and professional manner. If you want to find out more about our full range of services, then don’t hesitate to contact us at hello@sqn.agency.