Fans of soccer and other sports popular outside North America have long been aware of a big difference between competitions here and many of their counterparts from around the world. And thanks to Ted Lasso, that awareness has risen exponentially.
We’re talking of course about seating and sideline arrangements for players and coaches, especially in sports such as soccer and cricket, where managers and those not playing are ensconced in sometimes elaborate structures tricked out with luxurious seats that render terms such as “benchwarmer” and “riding the pine” obsolete.
From a sports marketing perspective, such areas create a valuable opportunity for TV visible branding, whether on seat headrests or on installations that protect athletes and coaches from the elements. As brands demonstrate interest in new inventory such as the NHL’s DEDs and the many patch and jersey opportunities across major pro sports leagues, it’s not a stretch to imagine that sponsors would see great appeal in prominent and semi-permanent sideline branding opportunities.
Granted, the ability to develop such new assets is sport specific. Basketball and hockey arenas have obvious footprint and sightline limitations. NFL sidelines must accommodate significantly more people than most other sports. There are also cultural differences between sports, with coaches and second-string players barely sitting in some, while almost reclining in others.
The greatest opportunity for seating upgrades and sponsor identification in North America could lie with baseball, where both dugouts and bullpens seem ripe for an Extreme Makeover: Sports Sponsorship Edition.
Sports properties considering an upgrade should be aware that much of the player seating seen during European soccer matches is from a single source that claims to have inaugurated the practice by chance nearly 30 years ago.
In 1994, Germany’s Recaro Group, which manufactures airline, gaming and automotive seats, provided the head coach of FC Kaiserslautern—currently a Bundesliga second division club—with a customized vehicle seat that he could use during games to help his ailing back. That arrangement developed into a deal with the club to provide sideline seats in the team colors and eventually led to Recaro supplying “over 150 top clubs around the world…including Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid,” according to the company’s website.
Regardless of the equipment maker or what specific elements they consist of, sideline improvements could represent the next wave of sponsorship initiatives from North American pro sports teams.