In a low growth world for banks, Banco Santander SA can still count on a payoff from its sponsorship of European soccer’s top club competition.
Liverpool, which has won the Champions League five times, takes the field Saturday against London’s Tottenham Hotspur at Atletico de Madrid’s stadium. While the Spanish capital braces for an invasion of English fans — 4,700 police will be on duty to keep order — Santander sees the final as a business opportunity.
Every euro invested in its sponsorship of the Champions League yields three to five euros in terms of the value of marketing exposure, said a person familiar with the bank’s sponsorship activities, who asked not to be named because the information is private. Santander’s gamble is that paying fees to sponsor top sporting events such as the Champions League will draw in customers in and raise its profile.
“There’s very good research that shows sponsoring prestige events leads to your brand getting associated with that prestige, so it’s easy to see why this is attractive for Santander,” said Antony Poole, associate professor of marketing at EADA business school in Barcelona. “It’s not just the sponsorship, it’s everything else you can do around it.”
Santander’s top three markets — Brazil, Spain and the U.K. — are crazy about soccer. The final will be shown in 200 countries worldwide, generating about 1 billion social media and UEFA web and app activations, according to UEFA. That multiplies the scope for Santander to get its name in front of consumers.
Two of the countries — Spain and the U.K. — have proved problematic for Santander’s banking business as an ultra-low interest rate environment makes it hard for the bank to build revenue in its home market and Brexit clouds the outlook for the British economy. Shares in Santander are little changed this year and about in line with the Euro STOXX Banks Price Index.
Even so, sports sponsorship is one way to improve cost efficiency and bolster the bank’s brand, said Juan Manuel Cendoya, the bank’s senior executive vice president of communications, corporate marketing and research, in a phone interview. The lender was able to cut marketing expenses by 15% last year, in part because of the effectiveness of its sport sponsorship investments, he said.
“This has a very powerful influence in terms of image, awareness and commercial and business efffects,” Cendoya said.
Santander’s recent focus on soccer comes as it wound down its eight-year sponsorship of the Ferrari racing team and corporate agreements with Formula 1.
The bank has sponsored football competitions in Latin America and this year extended its accord for La Liga, the Spanish league that’s home to Real Madrid and Barcelona, to include the 2020-2021 season. They are the biggest clubs in the sport in terms of the amount of revenue they earn, according to Deloitte.
Sometimes relationships built through sport can help win banking business. Santander’s sponsorship of Ferrari put the lenders’s name on the chassis of the Italian automaker’s Formula 1 supercar. It also helped the bank land a top role in Ferrari’s initial public offering in 2015.
The bank is getting into the spirit of the final, hiring sightseeing buses for fans and an arena in Madrid’s Central square to showcase famous moments from the competition’s history. Overseeing the festivities will be Ronaldo Nazario, the Brazilian star who is Santander’s sponsorship ambassador.
Other corporate sponsors UEFA’s Champion’s League include Nissan, Mastercard and Heineken. Madrid is preparing for an overflow of Liverpool and Spurs supporters far in excess of the 16,613 tickets allocated to each finalist.