TicketManager | Pet-Crazed U.S. Would Make a Great Home for This Activation Program

The Spanish professional soccer team Girona FC has made multiple headlines the past two years, first earning a promotion for the 2022-23 season to LaLiga’s top flight after being relegated to the second division for three years and then finishing third this year to secure a place in the UEFA Champions League for the first time in the club’s 94-year history.

Girona also made news off the pitch with its recent signing of Etihad Airways as its new front-of-shirt sponsor in a deal that reportedly more than quadruples the value of the partnership over what previous shirt sponsor Gosbi had paid over the past three years.

But before we turn the page from the locally based animal nutrition company’s partnership with Girona, we should mark some of the promotional programs the two sides collaborated on to bring the deal to life. I would be surprised—and quite frankly disappointed—if these ideas weren’t replicated on this side of the Atlantic in the near future, as they represent a tremendous example of tapping people’s passions to build relevancy and using the platform of pro sports to bring attention to important issues.

With its vested interest in animal welfare, Gosbi set out to ensure its sponsorship was about far more than jersey branding. As the company’s CEO stated in it announcement in July 2021, “This partnership goes far beyond simple sponsorship,” with a goal to “leverage our expertise in the animal world and the communicative power of a club like Girona FC to emphasize the role animals play in families and promote their well-being.”

Over three seasons, some of the unique activations associated with the partnership included:

  • The “Animal Respect On Tour” campaign, featuring a van that traveled with the football club to away games to conduct promotional and media activities—including donating food to local shelters—involving influencers and others aimed at reinforcing the ideals of respect for animals and fostering a change in mindset by informing people about the daily challenges faced by many animals.
  • The donation of 1 euro to a shelter for each sale of an official jersey or training shirt featuring the Gosbi branding
  • Top players participating in dog adoption events at shelters
  • An “Animal Respect Challenge” for hundreds of school children
  • Dog agility exhibitions held on the pitch prior to home games
  • In the deal’s second season, Girona FC introduced Canya, a four-year-old labrador retriever, as the club’s “official dog.” Trained to interact with children and the elderly, and comfortable in large crowds, Canya poses for pictures in the fan zone and greets spectators along the perimeter of the field prior to matches. A licensed therapy dog, Canya also conducted sessions at multiple residential treatment centers wearing her Girona colors. She also has her own social media pages for fans to follow.
  • For year three, Girona introduced a club membership card for pets, with benefits including a personalized card featuring the pet’s photo, a welcome gift, and a 10 percent discount at Girona’s official store for pet-related items such as collars, feeders and clothing.
  • At the end of the third season, Girona FC and Gosbi launched the #AdoptaGosbi initiative to promote the adoption of dogs and cats and raise funds for eleven provincial shelters. Participants could make donations through the Gosbi website, with all proceeds going toward purchasing food for dogs and cats. For a LaLiga match in May, the team played in jerseys with #AdoptaGosbi on the front, while fans could visit a tent in the fan zone to make donations of cash and goods for the shelters. Following the game, the player jerseys were raffled off to those who made donations.

As is typical with clubs that get promoted, Girona sought a major increase for the sponsorship upon the conclusion of Gosbi’s term in May. Research outlet Sportcal estimated Gosbi’s annual payment at $500,000, while Etihad’s agreement is reportedly worth $2.2 million a year for the next three seasons.

The new agreement extends the relationship between the airline and pro soccer teams owned wholly or in part by City Football Group. In addition to Girona—which CFG owns a 47 percent stake in—Etihad partners with Manchester City in England’s Premier League, New York City FC in MLS and Melbourne City in Australia’s A-League.

Meanwhile, despite both parties appearing to be pleased with the partnership, it does not look like Gosbi will return with the club at a lower sponsorship level, further opening the door for other teams and partners to borrow the brand’s activation ideas and run with them.