Rewind back to the early days of the Premier League in the mid-1990s and electronics companies dominated in the field of shirt sponsorship.
By the turn of the century, the sponsorship bug had drifted to those in the telecommunications industry. However, for much of the last decade, it has been gambling operators that have taken a growing interest in the exposure available from being associated with Premier League football clubs.
Betfair were the first to delve into these waters in the 2002/03 campaign when striking a partnership with Fulham and, in the upcoming season, over three-quarters of Premier League matches will involve at least one club with a company from the gambling industry as its shirt sponsor.
Some 90 of the 380 total fixtures will pit two teams profiting from gambling sponsorship in opposition.
Why sponsor a football club?
Two of the main reasons why sponsoring a football club is good business for a gambling operator are that supporters of that team are likely to switch allegiances to bet with them and the brand as a whole generally gets better exposure within the football community.
This demographic naturally fits in with the leading target audience of gambling firms chasing business.
Interestingly, the costs associated with sponsoring the Premier League’s top teams mean that there is little involvement – at least in terms of kit branding – from gambling operators, who seem happy to gain the exposure from the division as a whole, rather than a particular club.
Having their name plastered on a background set during a post-game interview, on advertising boards within stadiums or on training apparel is seen as sufficient.
However, the recent world record deal that has seen Paul Pogba return to Manchester United from Juventus may offer food for thought that it is worth gambling companies paying the premium.
The Paul Pogba deal
Typically when a footballing superstar signed for their new club, the grand unveiling barely involved a sponsor. The common approach involved the player walking onto the middle of the pitch of his new employer, waving a scarf to a fairly-packed stadium.
The Pogba deal was different.
He was driven to Old Trafford in a classic car from Manchester United’s chief sponsor Chevrolet, while Adidas secured the perfect media spots to advertise their range of items to commuters with Pogba as the star attraction.
It was no secret that the Pogba deal was concluded as much as a week before the official unveiling, with the delay said to involve disagreements as to how much the player’s agent Mino Raiola would receive for his involvement in securing the deal.
This may well have been true, but this hold up also provided a suitable smokescreen for the club and its main sponsors to get the most exposure from the situation.
Not being unkind to the likes of Hull City, Burnley or Watford but, even if these clubs break their transfer record this summer, the new signings will not have half the global appeal of Pogba.
Therefore, operators such as Kenyan betting firm SportPesa, Dafabet or 138.com are unable to utilise their sponsorship packages to the same degree.
It is only with the high-profile clubs and their significant superstar signings where such opportunities arise.
Why pay the premium to sponsor the elite clubs?
How impressive would it have been if a leading casino operator were the main sponsors of Manchester City and were able to use Pep Guardiola in a brand new television advertisement on the day he was announced as their official new manager?
Or if a casino operator was given the authority to accidentally-on-purpose leak confirmation of a new major player signing on its media channels?
Supporters could be effectively forced to sign up to the casino operator to get a first glimpse of the unveiling or backstage live footage as much as a couple of hours before the formal presentation.
This could do wonders for a gambling operator’s brand. There could also be endless possibilities in terms of encouraging the viewers to deposit funds too, with a host of attractive sign-up offers.
At a time when the Premier League as an entity is taking on growing importance in China, with investors from the country securing ownership of English clubs, the opportunities and possibilities for sponsors are only enhancing further.
With the outlook suddenly looking brighter in terms of the size of the market being appealed to and increased brand awareness openings, gambling operators have picked a sensible time to up their interest in the Premier League.
Setting the bar higher in terms of the size of clubs being targeted will only augment things further.