Italian swimwear company Arena outbid rival Speedo to sign its Official Partner deal with Fina, the world governing body for swimming, last month.
Arena is now the exclusive technical partner of the federation for all major events including the Fina World Championships (long and short course), the World Junior Championships and the World Masters Championships. The deal begins in December 2014 and runs to 2019.
Sports Sponsorship Insider understands that seven to eight brands were in discussions with Fina about the position, including Speedo, which had been Fina’s exclusive technical partner since 2004. Arena’s offer was the “most financially attractive,” Peter Hall, head of marketing at Fina, said.
Speedo is understood to pay about $1m (€730,000) per year in its current deal.
As exclusive technical partner, Arena will provide swimwear, sportswear, swimming equipment and training aids for all officers, staff and volunteers involved in all major Fina events. It will also receive extensive signage and visibility on media broadcasts (see inventory panel below).
The brand had been the Primary Sponsor of the Fina Swimming World Cup from 2007 to 2013, when the competition was called the Fina/Arena Swimming World Cup. The World Cup Primary Sponsor position is not included in the new Official Partner deal.
Giuseppe Musciacchio, general manager, brand development at Arena, told Sports Sponsorship Insider that the contract was a “big jump” for the brand in its position with Fina.
“While the World Cup was good for us, the World Championships is the main event for exposure and for building brand credibility,” he said.
The deal guarantees strong television exposure in Europe thanks to Fina’s pan-European media rights deal with the European Broadcasting Union, the consortium of public-service broadcasters. The deal means Fina events are covered by some of Europe’s biggest free-to-air broadcasters. Fina’s current EBU deal runs from October 2013 through 2017.
Fina is looking to increase the profile of its competitions in the next cycle by combining the World Masters Championships, in which over-25s compete in five disciplines, and World Championships into the same competition programme, starting in Kazan 2015.
The deal is the second time in recent years that Arena has replaced Speedo as a top sponsor of a major swimming property. In January 2013, the brand began an eight-year contract with USA Swimming, the governing body for swimming in the US. Under the deal, Arena is the exclusive kit supplier to the US national team.
USA Swimming athletes are still able to sign individual endorsement deals with other swimwear brands.
Speedo also remains an official sponsor of USA Swimming until 2020, but has lost exclusivity in all technical and performance apparel product categories to Arena.
The Fina World Championships in Mexico in 2017 are of particular interest to Arena as North America is a key sales market.
As well as its sponsorship of USA Swimming, Arena has individual endorsement deals with North American swimmers including three-time Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Soni.
The brand is also the official equipment supplier to the Auburn University Swimming Team, one of the leading US college swimming teams.
Speedo is currently the number one swimwear brand by market share both globally and in North America, where the brand is distributed through its Speedo USA subsidiary.
Arena is second on both counts. It enjoyed a record sales year in 2012 following the London Olympic Games in which 34 per cent of the medals were won by swimmers sponsored by Arena.
As well as North America, Musciacchio said the brand is looking to expand in North, South and Eastern Europe and in the UK.
This month, it signed a deal to be the Official Supplier of Aquatics Wear to the English team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
December 2014 to 2019
- Provision of swimwear, sportswear, swimming equipment and training aids for all Fina officers, staff and volunteers
- Poolside signage
- Logo on media backdrops for television interviews/press conferences
- Exclusive merchandising rights
- Rights to sell Arena gear in competition venue
- Hospitality at all major Fina events
- Platform to speak at Fina’s annual congress
- Access to athletes and events to produce content
- Rights to use Fina and event logos in Arena communications