BBC News

Spurs look to sell their brand to fans and sponsors

By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News

image captionTottenham Hotspur is well-known for its long tradition of attacking football

Tottenham Hotspur's rallying slogan "Glory Glory" could soon be transformed into the slightly more 21st Century sounding "Flair, Style and Adventure" as the club embarks on a major business rebranding.

The north London team is looking to reach out its a potentially huge fan base around the world, and then leverage that global interest in Spurs to hopefully sign a number of new sponsorship deals.

At the heart of it all is the concept that there is a huge, as-yet-untapped, "brand" at the core of the club.

All this is based on a solid foundation of a continued and growing demand for Premier League football around the world, which is broadcast in 207 countries.

Around the world Premier League football was watched on TV last year by 3.9 billion people, 1.24 billion of them in Asia alone.

"The appetite is growing," says Tottenham Hotspur executive director Charlie Wijeratna, a former lawyer and investment banker.

"On top of this Premier League platform you have Tottenham Hotspur. The interest is massive in Asia, including China.

"There are more people outside the UK who like and follow Spurs than there are inside the UK."

The club sells out every match at its 36,500 capacity White Hart Lane ground, has 23,500 season ticket holders, and a further 32,000 people on a paid-for waiting list for season tickets.

'Zero revenues'

However, he says that while Spurs has an estimated three million core fans in the UK, there are another 179 million supporters in other parts of the world who follow the team's fortunes.

After Asia the next most popular sphere is in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa, where the club has been a trailblazer in terms of touring.

"But we drive zero revenues from these 179 million fans at present," says Mr Wijeratna at a Sports Marketing 360 event in London.

"Manchester United are three to four years ahead of us in this. Very few other clubs derive any income from all these people who care about them overseas."

He adds: "How do we create value for sponsors from all these people who want to support us?"

Mr Wijeratna said there were currently aspects of sponsoring a football club that could be gauged - such as the value of tickets and hospitality.

image captionSpurs are popular in sub-Saharan Africa, including in South Africa

Media value can also be measured in terms of LED advertising, backdrop boarding and programme and magazine advertisements.

But he said these tangible and measurable benefits were small compared to the "intangible" benefits of being associated with the Spurs brand.

"Tottenham Hotspur's brand is the club's most valuable asset," asserts Mr Wijeratna

"The greatest value of a sponsorship lies in being associated with the brand - the marks, imagery and values."

And he said the power of the brand could be harnessed for the benefit of commercial partners of Spurs.

'Distinctive brand'

"We play attractive football, that is something that goes back to the start of the last century," says Mr Wijeratna, who joined Spurs last November from London 2012 Olympic Games organisers Locog.

"We want people to think about what makes us different - Spurs has a distinctive brand around these issues of flair, style and adventure."

He said the club had gone through a thorough process to work out what made Tottenham Hotspur different from other clubs.

Now the club is to launch a new website in November, along with a new coherent brand image which makes use of Spurs' famous cockerel logo.

"We are trying to find commercial partners who value [the Spurs brand]," Mr Wijeratna says.

"We will be giving commercial partners access to something people want to be involved with."

He said that although Spurs had sold, via the Premier League, the TV rights to its live league matches, it had other valuable media assets.

image captionThe club is launching a new website to help connect with its fans around the globe

"We own the access to our players at all other times, such as training," says Mr Wijeratna.

"We can create bespoke content, filming training for example. There is an immense interest in the players and in this side of things.

"At the moment I don't think the club is really making the most of that."

He said the best way to use all this potential content was with sponsors, who could run commercial programmes off the back of this "compelling content".

Stadium issues

The club received a boost earlier this week when it signed a planning agreement to build a new stadium at the 20-acre Northumberland Park site next to White Hart Lane.

"This will be the best stadium in the country," says Mr Wijeratna.

"It has been designed with the fan experience as the most important thing."

He said the club, which is currently building a new state-of-the-art training complex, desperately needed a new, bigger, stadium.

image captionThe capacity at White Hart Lane is not big enough to meet demand

"We are one of two or three clubs in the country who can fill a 60,000 stadium relatively easily," he says.

"At present we cannot fulfil demand. Also, Arsenal and Manchester United take considerably more revenue from each home game than we do, that is because of the size of the stadium."

When the club played Real Madrid in the quarter-final of last year's Champions League, they only had 5,000 tickets available for sale and 70,000 applications to buy them.

Tottenham, however, have not given up hope of becoming the long-term tenants of the Olympic Stadium after next year's Games.

They have mounted a legal challenge against West Ham's current winning bid.

Mr Wijeratna said the decision to also apply to use the Olympic Stadium was a prudent business decision, but would not comment further because of the ongoing legal case.

Financial fair play

According to the latest Deloitte analysis of the football club business in Europe, the club was the tenth biggest in the continent - and by extension the world - in terms of revenues.

"When financial fair play kicks in that will change the balance," says Mr Wijeratna, referring to the new Uefa monetary guidelines which state clubs can only spend the revenues their business brings in.

He said it meant clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea would no longer be able to rely on the deep pockets of their owners.

"Spurs makes an operating profit, and has done for a long time," says the former Sky television executive.

"Very quietly Spurs is getting 'with it'. We are going on a journey, and it is going to be very exciting."