Kindred Group’s work in English football has been a huge source of pride over the last few years. We have supported clubs up and down the United Kingdom, and have worked hard to lead from the front in reinventing how sponsors approach their relationships with sporting organisations.
The English Football League, EFL, is hosting its annual 'Week of Action' this week, so we sat down with UK General Manager Neil Banbury to tell us more about Kindred’s activity with the football club Middlesbrough FC and our sponsorship approach in the UK.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Neil. Can you give a little more insight into our sponsorship with Middlesbrough and the EFL's Week of Action and why it's so important?
Of course! We're incredibly proud of our sponsorships in football in the UK - and our partnership with Middlesbrough has been a really enjoyable one over the last couple of years. It is a fantastic club, and more importantly, it sits at the heart of a vibrant community - acting as an anchor point and a source of passion, friendship and more for the fans and wider community.
We have been focused on ensuring our model of sponsorship benefits clubs and their communities - which is why our deal with Boro includes funding for the Foundation's vital work. The power of football to inspire change is huge - especially its ability to engage with some of the most vulnerable members of society. Middlesbrough's Foundation is embedded in the town, and the bond is strengthened by the life-changing initiatives they run every day by working to raise aspirations and improve the life chances of young people and adults across Teesside.
The EFL's Week of Action is a crucial time to raise the profile of all of that work - so it was important for us to ensure we gave the front-of-shirt sponsorship space to the Foundation to help raise the profile of their work.
There's obviously been a lot of talk about the future of sponsorship by gambling firms in the UK over the last few years - and the Government's White Paper looks like it is nearly on its way. What are your thoughts on the issue?
There has been a lot of coverage about the industry and its relationship with football and sport in the UK – some of which is a little unfair. However, many football fans, in particular, understand the role responsible betting and gaming companies play in supporting the sport – and that betting and football have an honest relationship, with millions enjoying a flutter on the sport they love.
But it is also clear that betting companies have too much involvement. I would like to see a higher bar required from gambling brands looking to get involved in sports in the UK. Companies with a genuine and deep commitment to the UK will always be more incentivised to use sponsorship for good. However, many operators involved in UK football – predominantly Asian-facing brands – view it as simply an opportunity to get their logo in front of non-UK fans and audiences.
A greater commitment to ensuring sponsorship benefits clubs and communities and promoting safer gambling behaviour should sit at the heart of all licensed, UK-focused operators' approaches to sponsorship.
We have taken great strides at Kindred to do that. For example, we remain the only brand in the UK to feature responsible gambling messages on all of our shirt sponsorships, and we dedicate over 30% of our football assets to safer gambling messaging. Combined with our approach to community investment, this higher sponsorship bar is the way forward in the UK.
Sponsors and clubs are in a unique position to do more to make sponsorship truly benefit the whole community of a football club, and promote healthier, safer gambling through our activation. We will continue to do so - with our ongoing work with Middlesbrough and our other clubs' testament to that - and hope that others will join us in our journey to make sports sponsorship benefit clubs and communities across the country.
Is there anything else to look out for in 2023 with our UK sponsorship model?
Absolutely. We're looking to continue developing our approach in football, horse racing, and boxing, where we have proud partnerships with a range of brilliant athletes and organisations. Keep your eyes peeled.
Thank you, Neil!