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UniCredit has been a top-level Official Sponsor of the competition since 2009-10 and is currently known as the Official Bank of the Uefa Champions League in a deal that runs from 2012-13 to 2014-15.
Penna said that UniCredit’s return on investment of some 200 per cent during the first four years of its Uefa partnership was greatly enhanced by “a terrific number of activities which make UniCredit by far the most active UCL partner in its European territories … financed with centrally allocated or additional local activation budgets.”
Along with UniCredit, current sponsors of the Champions League are carmaker Ford, oil and gas company Gazprom, beer brand Heineken, payment services company MasterCard and gaming console brand Sony PlayStation.
UniCredit claims that, from September 2009 to May 2013, its sponsorship of the Champions League reached people in the 22 markets on 12bn unique occasions. UniCredit’s core markets are located in central and eastern Europe, plus Italy, Germany and Austria.
Its activation efforts generated 500,000 customer leads, said Penna.
The brand’s local teams and subsidiaries launched 250 Champions League-related campaigns across the four years and sold 1.4m Champions League-related products.
The company has also hosted around 46,000 business clients and customers through hospitality at Champions League matches.
“We have certainly surpassed our goals for the sponsorship and will continue to develop both these and our activation efforts and make them even more challenging in the final year of the current contract,” Penna said.
UniCredit holds a number of exclusive properties under its contract with the Champions League. The brand is the presenting sponsor of the Champions League Trophy Tour, which visited Germany, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria during the 2013-14 season, all markets in which UniCredit operates.
The brand employs former Real Madrid and England coach Fabio Capello as Official UniCredit Ambassador for the sponsorship. Capello attended all stages of the trophy tour for the 2013-14 campaign.
The brand also has presenting rights to the ‘Confidence Meter Game’ on Uefa’s website, in which fans can take a poll on how confident they are of their team winning that week’s match.
UniCredit has a set of rights on Uefa’s website, but should Uefa offer more digital inventory to its partners? Penna said the creation of further ‘brand-owned’ platforms such as the ‘Confidence Meter Game’ would boost value for both parties.
“Certainly, more customised content from UEFA would help. But as they say, ‘content is king, distribution is Queen’. UEFA has a tremendously big and active community on their social media channels. Uefa is also open to publish the content created by sponsors on their Twitter, Facebook and Google+ channels. This generates high engagement and drives traffic to our owned platforms.
“A combination of both, providing additional online sole and exclusive sections [like the Confidence Meter Game as well as increasing the distribution of the partners’ content on Uefa social media channels would boost value on both sides”
Penna revealed that the brands’ total sponsorship budget accounts for approximately one third of UniCredit’s total annual marketing spend.
The brand’s sponsorship objectives have changed since 2009, he said.
“Our starting point to become a Uefa Champions League partner was to strengthen the newly implemented UniCredit master brand after a huge re-branding process which involved almost 400 brands. From this brand focus, with awareness and image building, it shifted to a more sales focused activation to increase propensity to buy and support the sales.”