CMO Panel – Why we sponsor and what we are looking for?
Football still represents incredible value as a sponsorship opportunity according to CMOs from two leading energy companies.
Jem Maidment, Chief Marketing Officer at Utilita Energy, and Michael Cottrell, Product, Partnership and International Marketing Director at Octopus Energy, shared the stage for a panel discussion looking at the properties they sponsor and drivers behind those choices with football playing a key role for both brands.
As Maidment states: “Football is still a cheap way to build a brand. I wanted to use it as a proof point to acquire customers in specific geographical locations, so it all started when we became the presenting partner for Scottish League Cup and it was hugely successful.”
From that starting point, Utilita, who launched in 2003 and count 800,000 customers in the UK, has established itself as a hugely recognisable brand in British football, partnering with more than 25 clubs.
Utilita has supplied power to several stadiums – including fellow Premier League venues Selhurst Park, home of Crystal Palace, and Villa Park, Aston Villa’s historic stadium and secured arena naming rights in Newcastle, Birmingham and Sheffield, seeing sport and music as the two biggest cultural touchpoints.
Utilita has also launched an environmental movement – Football Rebooted – aimed at rehoming at least one million pairs of quality football boots across the UK, to stop them ending up in landfill, as well as 136,000 tonnes of carbon – the same as taking 7,000 cars off the road for a year or turning the energy off in one million medium-sized houses for a week.
Sustainable energy is the specialist subject of British renewable energy group Octopus Energy who launched as a challenger brand in 2016 and now counts 5 million customers in the UK and is branching out internationally with offices in Milan, Valencia and Munich.
One of Octopus’ earliest and longest-standing partners is Arsenal FC and it’s a relationship that started when the club approached Octopus as they were proactively seeking a green energy supplier.
It’s an association that has had a huge impact on Octopus’ growth, as Michael Cottrell explains: “The partnership with Arsenal was inadvertently a springboard into the B2B energy market, they were our first client, and this has now grown to more than 30,000. The halo effect of the Arsenal association is hard to quantify. Even today, as we grow in other markets, the global recognition that Arsenal brings is invaluable.”
Whilst Octopus achieved a huge boost from being affiliated to Arsenal, it isn’t always a direct driver of acquisition. “We did some activations at The Emirates Stadium, but it wasn’t a natural fit – it was clear that football fans did not want to talk about their energy provider at the game!,” said Cotterell.
The brand did, however, gain cut through around issues of sustainability. “When the club speaks on issues directly, which Arsenal do regularly, their fans tend to listen,” Cotteral continued.
As both energy firms target long-term sustainable growth, it’s clear that football, and sport more broadly, will remain strategically important as a way to build their brands and customer bases.