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Aviva pays more for Premiership Rugby renewal

Insurance company Aviva said this month that its title sponsorship of English rugby union’s Premiership was helping to drive its B2B and consumer businesses, among other benefits, as it paid a 20-per-cent fee increase to renew the deal for three years.

The deal, running from 2014-15 to 2016-17, is cash-only with no value in kind and worth around £18m (€21.2m/$28.3m), or £6m per year.

The current four-year deal, from 2010-11 to 2013-14, is worth £20m, or £5m per year. Both deals were agreed with Premiership Rugby, the organiser of the Premiership, the top club rugby union competition in England.

Aviva will continue to title sponsor the Premiership under the renewal. It will also continue to have perimeter signage, branding on the shoulders of all teams’ kits and branding on the referees’ kit. These branding rights are the same as in the current deal.

The new deal was announced in late May. It was agreed in a three-month exclusive negotiation period included in the current deal, with talks taking place directly between Aviva and Premiership Rugby. Aviva was advised by the Hill & Knowlton agency.

Sarah Loughran, Aviva’s head of sponsorship and corporate responsibility, told Sports Sponsorship Insider that the deal was renewed for several reasons.

“It’s proving to be a strong property for us in terms of our B2B business and also with our direct customer activities,” she said. “It’s an exciting time for rugby with the World Cup in 2015, and it’s a great time to be involved in rugby and the build-up to the tournament.” England is hosting the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

“The league runs for nine months of the year which means we have a consistent presence across various media outlets. Being title sponsor gives us a great reach across England.”

Loughran also said that media coverage the brand received as a result of sponsoring the Premiership was ‘invaluable,’ and that there had been an ‘extremely positive’ response to activations around the sponsorship which rewarded customers with benefits, such as discounted tickets to Premiership matches.

Activation
Aviva activates its sponsorship partially through its Aviva Advantages scheme, a platform which gives its customers special offers and prize giveaways. Existing customers can get discounts on tickets to watch Premiership games and matches of English Premier League football side Norwich City, which Aviva also sponsors.

The insurance company also ran a campaign around the Aviva Premiership final, between Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints, on May 25 this year, to promote its smartphone application Aviva Drive. The app monitors a user’s driving over the course of 200 miles. Users are scored based on how well they drive, and the score can be used to get price reductions on car insurance.

Aviva has also promoted its life savings and pensions schemes by working with the Rugby Players’ Association, a trade union representing rugby union players whose membership includes retired players.

Aviva uses Hill & Knowlton to activate its sponsorships, and for public relations.

Premiership sponsors
As well as Aviva, Premiership Rugby has one other title sponsorship deal, for its Premiership Rugby Sevens tournament, with financial services company JP Morgan. The Premiership has five Official Partners. The Aviva deal is Premiership Rugby’s most valuable sponsorship.

Dominic Hayes, Premiership Rugby’s commercial director, told Sports Sponsorship Insider this month that the league is looking to maintain its current number of partners, but wants to secure more supplier deals.

The league is not targeting any industry sectors in particular. It is, however, moving towards a more defined central sponsorship offering with partners from distinct sectors. It is also looking to avoid having too many partners, Hayes said.

“It is important for a partner to feel they own a piece of the game, of the tournament – we don’t want to bring in an untold number of partners as we want to help these companies deliver a return on their investment,” he said. 

Premiership Rugby’s biggest revenue stream is from media rights. Its next four-year domestic rights deal with pay-television operator BT Sport, from 2013-14 to 2016-17, is worth £152m, or £38m per year.

Aviva’s sponsorship strategy
As well as title-sponsoring the Premiership, Aviva is the shirt sponsor of Norwich City. The club was chosen because the brand’s head office is in Norwich – the company was called Norwich Union until June 2009. The four-year deal, from 2012-13 to 2015-16, is thought to be worth around £1m per year.

“It was a great opportunity to sponsor a big club like Norwich, and it came with the added benefit of them being in the Premier League,” Loughran said. “This benefits Aviva companies overseas because the appetite for football internationally is voracious.”

Aviva also has the naming rights to the redeveloped Lansdowne Road stadium in Dublin, Ireland, in a ten-year deal, from 2010 to 2019. The venue is called the Aviva Stadium. It is thought that Aviva is paying between €40m and €45m, or between €4m and €4.5m per year.

When the deal was agreed, the company was changing its name in Ireland from Hibernian to Aviva, and the naming rights deal was targeted as a way of cementing the new name in customers’ minds.

Athletics deal ends
The renewal with Premiership Rugby comes less than a year after Aviva chose not to renew a major deal with the governing body of athletics in the UK, British Athletics – previously UK Athletics. In its last six-year deal with the athletics body, from 2007 to 2012, Aviva paid £50m, or £8.3m per year.

“We felt it was a natural time to end the association,” Loughran said. “Aviva had been sponsoring athletics for 13 years and had been through some major changes as a company.

“Athletics gave us a great platform to build awareness of the Aviva brand, which was a new name, but brand awareness has now reached a very strong point. The end of the contract also coincided with the 2012 Olympic Games and it felt like a very natural time to end the contract as our main objective (brand awareness) had been achieved.”

Aviva is not currently looking to sponsor any new properties. The company operates mainly in Europe and Asia. Its sports sponsorship investment so far has been focused in the UK and Ireland.

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