A Football Boot in Both Camps
July 9th 2012 – The Eze Group are announced as match day shirt sponsors and principal partners for the 2012/12 season. Strengthening the already deep ties of last season – when the Eze Group were BCFC official travel, leisure and entertainment partners.
August 13th 2012 – The Eze Group announced sponsorship of the Aston Villa Old Stars football team and become the AVFPA official business partners for the 2012-13 season. The AVFPA being the non-profit organization set up to provide care and support for former players and their families in need.
It’s Sometimes Hard To Be Impartial When You’re Partial
What happens when you are slap bang in the middle of a conflict you think shouldn’t be taking place? At times you may feel like a corporate UN. But unlike the UN, where you may well be bounded by strictures of neutrality, you have close ties and affections to both sides?
Do you pick the one you like the most, and be accused of favouritism or favour neither and be accused of sitting on the fence?
Do you try and support both sides and be accused of playing them both against each other, or walk away and leave them too it?
For a moment forget the UN and go to corporate sponsorship, in particular think of the corporate sponsorship of football. Given the same scenario, one of a corporation doing its best to support two opposing groups, you can now add the accusations of; wanting to have your cake and eat it, being mercenary or throwing your money around to please everyone.
Now let me tell you a little secret, one you might not be aware of, strange as it may seem, corporations have geographical and family ties too you know. If you’re British, those geographical ties often come with links to a certain local football club (unless of course you support Manchester United, but that’s another matter altogether). Corporations and their senior executives often have sporting likes and dislikes; remember corporations have wives and children and friends who may well support football teams as well. Corporations can even hold, within their dark and secretive boardrooms, allegiances to a certain club; in short corporations may sometimes actually be football supporters.
Which brings us to the Eze Group (geographically based in Birmingham and with many of its staff, senior and junior, linked to Birmingham by ties of birth and domicile) and their seemingly divided loyalties (or wish to don the blue helmet), when it comes to football sponsorship. The Eze Group finds itself, by choice, having links to both Birmingham clubs and hopes to do so for the foreseeable future.
Now the aficionados of each club might see this as impossibility, a circle that cannot be squared. Their fierce loyalties may well have it that no man or organisation can have cordial dealings with both clubs.
Diehard fans might disagree but, on the whole, the second city rivalry is a far more fraternal one than most and when compared to other big city rivalries, it is a reasonably friendly rivalry. Although the Second City Derby has not been played as often as it should have recently (there wasn’t a league contest throughout the entire 1990’s) but is still the subject of very real emotions in and around Birmingham and is as toughly contested a derby as any other in English football.
This has been the case since the first derby took place back in Muntz Road in 1879 – I think the modern billiard table like surface is a long way from the one described that day by Villa players as “only suitable for pot holing”. Those “only suitable for pot holing” pitches certainly continued for another century and played a part of my formative years watching top flight football. The groundsman has upped his game considerably since the 1980’s – perhaps with the help of some of that new corporate money flowing around the game.
So the Eze Group find themselves in something of a quandary. You see one of the things about the sponsorship of highly partisan teams is that the sponsor doesn’t necessarily increase sales among the support of the team they are sponsoring, while at the same time there is a good chance of losing sales from the support of their opponents. McEwen’s lager in Scotland learned this costly lesson when it sponsored one half of the old firm, a mistake it hasn’t made since.
So let’s look at that once again – you don’t benefit from an increase in custom from the team you are sponsoring, but lose custom from its rivals. A veritable lose lose situation, and even sports loving sponsors don’t like to pay to actually lose business.
So football sponsorship can take a bit of courage. But as any football lover will tell you, heart can rule head and where football is concerned heart can often rule balance sheet too.
So by linking to both Birmingham giants; maybe we are hedging our bets, covering our corporate vitals or doing so out of; a genuine regard for both clubs, a history of support at board level, and strong family and geographical ties to both great clubs and this wonderful city, what do you think?