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How Intellectual Property Rights are Monetized in the English Premier League


Arojojoye Peter

The English Premier League is unarguably the best league in the world when it comes to sports business. This can be easily traced to the massive amount of money realized by football clubs and players from endorsement deals; sponsorship agreements between clubs and big companies; sales of goods bearing the Premier league club’s Logo; whooping sums paid to acquire exclusive rights to broadcast matches to fans across the globe. The terms, “Brand Endorsements, Sponsorship, Merchandising and Broadcasting in relation to the English Premier League are discussed below.

Sponsorship

Sponsorship simply refers to how companies provide financial support for a particular competition so as to promote the sales of their products or for people to request for their services. In the English Premier League alone, about 9 football teams are being sponsored by gaming companies such as Defabet, M88, W88, Man BetX, SportPesa, Betway. These companies pay the football teams huge amount of money to have their trademark in form of logos or names on the team’s kit. For instance, Manchester United has the biggest sponsorship agreement as they are paid £47m per season to wear the Chevrolet logo on their kit.

Recently, the English  Premier League signed Coca Cola as its official soft drink sponsor. In the words of  Sports sponsorship expert Nigel Currie, “My view is that Coca Cola will have seen what PepsiCo have done with their Champions League sponsorship, which they have used to promote different brands they own into different geographic territories….. the Premier League has a very similar reach in terms of popularity around the world, and Coca-Cola will be thinking they can do the same as Pepsi has done.”

The Main IP right involved in sponsorship is the trademark which is simply a name, logo, or symbol used to identify particular goods or services. In the case of Chelsea football Club which is one of the teams in English Premier League, the name “Yokohama Tyres” is plastered in front of the Club’s jersey as the Japanese tyre Manufacturer pays about £40 Million, just to have the name in front of the jersey.

Brand Endorsement

It is noteworthy to mention that the term “Endorsement” does not have an unequivocal definition. It means so many things depending on the context in which it is used. According to Investopedia.com, the term in relation to football deals refers to “a public declaration of support for a person, product, or services.” An endorsement deal is a contract which involves a form of advertisement involving a famous footballer who has a high degree of trust, recognition and respect among football fans. In the English Premier League, famous footballers such as Eden Hazard, Paul Pogba, David De Gea, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Mesut Ozil among others all have endorsement deals.

Hence, Companies believe that such endorsement will influence fans to buy their products, leading to profits for the companies. It suffices to say club sponsorship and player’s endorsements by corporations are useful strategies to communicate with consumers. In February 2019, Harry Kane signed for the razor’s firm Harry’s to become the branded face of the brand.  Another footballer in the Premier League who boasts of big endorsement deals is Mesut Ozil. The Arsenal star surely  has the influence to expand his endorsement footprint with almost 10 million Twitter followers and over 28 million Facebook fans. This shows that Ozil has a huge social media presence and with this, he has endorsement deals with brands like Adidas and Mercedes Benz.

The Intellectual Property rights involved here are the patent and image rights of players as some of these endorsement deals involve players endorsing a new and useful process, machine, manufacture or any new and useful improvement such as quality of a new boot made by sportwear giants. For example, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard who has an endorsement deal with Nike for a long time now (since 2012) helped in launching the Nike Mercurial Ultra Flyknit Vapor in 2018.

Merchandising

Merchandising is often used as an effective tool to attract sponsorship for special events. It is common for organizers of football matches or football teams to authorize sponsors to manufacture and sell merchandise bearing the Football team’s or Competition’s trademark or symbol. Hence, football teams in English Premier League make a lot in terms of selling products with their names and logo on. Examples of such products are the scarfs, jerseys which are commonly worn by fans of different Premier League teams around the world.

The main Intellectual property right here is the trademark and industrial design or design patents. According to a research conducted by World Trademark Review in 2018, for the third year in a row, Manchester United boasts the most trademarks of any club in the English Premier League.

Broadcasting Rights

Broadcasting rights are very important as they help to protect broadcasters who pay huge amount of money to acquire the exclusive rights to broadcast major sporting event live to audience across the globe from making a loss in their business.

The Premier League’s last deal for broadcasting rights agreed in 2015 and which runs till 2019, was worth £5.14bn. Also, according to a report by the British Broadcasting Corporation, “the rights to show Premier League games from 2019-2022 have been sold for £4.464bn – with two live packages still to be sold…Sky Sports have won the rights to four tranches – 128 live matches – while BT Sport have one, comprising 32 games.”

The dominant IP right here is the related rights which can be relied upon by companies such as Sky Sports, BT, DAZN, TSN among others. In effect, it helps to protect broadcasters who pay huge amount of money to acquire the exclusive rights to broadcast Premier league games from making a loss in their business as there exist the related rights which can be invoked to prevent other companies from rebroadcasting their work or recording and selling videos of it without their permission.

In conclusion, it is clear that the relationship between the English Premier and other companies seeking to develop their brands through brands endorsement, sponsorship, merchandising, and broadcasting is a symbiotic one – a win-win situation for both parties. As EPL fandom increases, and the scope of IP continues to widen, it is no gainsay that EPL’s place as the biggest league in the world has come to stay – just as much as the indispensability of IP to sports will be gaining traction.

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