Podcast: How Huddersfield Town’s identity is a natural fit for sponsorships with challenger brands

When Huddersfield Town were promoted to the Premier League for the first time this season, it was all something of a surprise.

Historically, the club has a claim to being one of the biggest in the country: they, along with Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United are one of only four clubs to have won the league title in three consecutive seasons. That was in the 1920s, though, and today just surviving in the Premier League would be a massive achievement.

On this week’s Digital Sport Insider podcast, Simon Jarvis, Commercial Director of Huddersfield Town, sat down with Dan McLaren to talk about his career, from working with the Premier League, the launch of Super League and even owning Oldham Athletic. But one of the most interesting parts of the chat centred around what it’s like to be new to the Premier League and competing with the huge worldwide behemoths at the top of the food chain – not just on the pitch, but off it, too.

“We are like a Terrier, that’s our identity,” says Jarvis. “It’s a small dog, but it’s got some fight in it. There’s an old phrase, ‘it’s not the size of the dog, it’s the size of the fight in the dog’, and that’s what we are.”

Whereas the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool are striking commercial deals in Asia and North America, and the likes of Manchester City are wooing new fans in China, Huddersfield are attempting to attract commercial partners for meaningful reasons – something that’s beneficial for both parties and goes beyond a deal for a deal’s sake.

“I think [our identity] dovetails nicely with brands that are out there who want to be associated with that achievement of competing with the big boys. We’ve seen brands such as Weismann, which is a big German brand, which has aligned itself with us in the UK. They’re a small player in the UK, but they see themselves as a challenger brand, and their ethos and brand values dovetail nicely with what we’re about: honesty, integrity, say it how it is. It’s a synergy, and it’s a case of how we activate those brands.”

There’s a real link between challenger brands and some football clubs – even plenty of Premier League ones when you think about it in those terms. The league has a very well-defined top six, and beyond that most clubs are on a fairly level playing field, but they’re all challenger brands in relation to the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea at the top.

That’s gives clubs like Huddersfield a whole host of brands they can partner with fairly naturally, whilst the bigger ones may gravitate to the bigger clubs.

“You see the bigger brands, the Sainsbury’s and the Asdas of this world, align themselves with bigger clubs, like DHL has aligned itself with Manchester United,” says Jarvis, “but we want to see those brands that may affiliate with us and can snap at those heels. So we have to pitch ourselves in that market place, and at the moment we seem to be doing well.”

But as we hear all the time, it’s not just about sponsorship, it’s about clever sponsorship. Just as on social media, where reach isn’t the be-all and end-all, engagement is. And that means being clever and creating something meaningful.

It’s the same in sponsorship, where things have changed markedly from the days when putting a logo on a shirt or on advertising boards around the pitch was all that needed to be done.

“We are like a Terrier, that’s our identity. It’s a small dog, but it’s got some fight in it.”

“Over the past decade that is one of the biggest changes – though not the biggest, with social media and things like that. But for us, you’re having to be increasingly creative in what you do with a brand or a sponsor, and I think that’s one of our strengths,” says Jarvis. “We can mobilise our commercial properties – that is, sometimes our players or the activities around the stadium – and then give real value back to those challenger brands that want to be associated with us.”

“So, for example, we played Arsenal the other night and we had a photographer down here who was taking ‘emotive photographs’, so photographs that you wouldn’t expect. It was actually the fans, and they’re experiences, going into a pub beforehand and then going in. And we’ve got a collection of these images that are black and white. So what we’re now doing is talking to somebody about giving exclusivity of five of those images to one of the partners of the club so they can use it on social media. Nowhere else will you see these pictures, but it actually gives interaction from our fan base, and further afield, into those social channels that the partner may have.”

“It’s using football and the creativity of football to drive business for them.”

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 831 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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