Santander expands footprint to Champions League as it leaves F1
By Simon Ward
Banco Santander, the Spanish bank that is a prominent sponsor of international sport, has today been unveiled as a new partner of the Uefa Champions League for three years starting in 2018-19.
The announcement of the tie-up with European soccer’s top clubs competition coincides with confirmation that the bank is ending its involvement in Formula 1, in which it has been a major sponsor of the Ferrari team.
Santander’s deal with Team Marketing, the agency responsible for signing up commercial partners for the Champions League on behalf of Uefa, will complement its existing partnerships in soccer highlighted by its title sponsorship of the top two divisions in Spain, which are known as LaLiga Santander and LaLiga 1|2|3.
It is also a sponsor of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s top clubs competition, and, given Santander’s presence in that market, the new deal will help to promote the Champions League outside Europe, as well as in key European markets such as the UK.
Santander is filling a slot in the Champions League sponsorship programme currently occupied by UniCredit, the Italy-based banking and financial services firm, which has been a partner since 2009, but announced in January that it would be withdrawing after the current season.
Significantly, Santander has a much larger presence in the UK, a key Champions League market, than UniCredit.
The bank's deal also includes the Uefa Super Cup, Uefa Youth League Finals and the new Uefa Futsal Champions League Finals, but not the Uefa Europa League, which UniCredit also presently sponsors.
Two other existing Champions League sponsors, Heineken and Nissan, have already extended their deals to cover the 2018-21 period.
In a statement, Guy-Laurent Epstein, the marketing director of Uefa Events, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Santander into the Uefa Champions League sponsor family and are excited to partner with one of the most distinguished and forward-thinking banks globally. There is natural fit between the Uefa Champions League and Santander, with the bank being consistently recognised within the best global brands and, of course, with the Uefa Champions League Final remaining the most watched annual sporting event on the planet.
“Santander has a great heritage in sport and this partnership will allow the Uefa Champions League to further engage with football fans in Latin America and around the world."
Ana Botín, the executive chairman of Santander, said: “Santander's partnership with the UEFA Champions League, the world's most global and aspirational sporting competition, builds on our support of Libertadores and, more recently, Racing Santander, the local football team of the Cantabrian city where our bank was founded 160 years ago.”
The LaLiga deal, which came into effect last season, is worth €20 million ($24 million) per year and runs to the end of the 2018-19 campaign, with an option of a one-year extension.
However, Santander has called time on its Formula 1 association, saying in a statement that it "will conclude its successful sponsorship of the Formula 1 racing team, Scuderia Ferrari, which it has supported for the last eight seasons.
"The bank will also conclude its corporate sponsorship agreements with F1, which have helped increase Santander’s brand recognition around the world over the last 11 years."
It was reported earlier this week that Santander had decided not to renew its deal with Ferrari beyond this year.
The partnership dates back to when Spanish driver Fernando Alonso joined the team, from McLaren, in 2010, and continued even after the two-time world champion returned to the British team after the 2014 season, with Santander’s financial commitment over seven years said to have hit €280 million.
The bank has been a sponsor of McLaren since 2007, and its present lower-tier deal was due to run until 2020. It was previously a title sponsor of both the British and Spanish rounds of the Formula 1 World Championship.
Today's Champions League deal provided a counterpoint to Santander's announcement on Tuesday that it is to take an impairment charge of €600 million due in large part to a fall in earnings at Santander Consumer USA Holdings.
There have also been some changes to the board with Isabel Tocino and Matias Rodriguez stepping down to take up other positions with the bank and Ramiro Mato, the head of the Spain and Portugal arm of BNP Paribas, joining the executive committee and becoming an independent board member.
As revealed by Sportcal in August, Uefa and Team have tweaked the Champions League commercial model for the next cycle, with eight official partner vacancies, one more than in the present cycle.
Alongside Heineken, Nissan and UniCredit, the existing Champions League sponsors are: MasterCard, the credit card company; PepsiCo, the US soft drinks and snack foods giant; Sony, the Japanese electronics behemoth; and Gazprom, the Russian energy giant.
Team is still out in the market seeking sponsors for the next cycle in the categories of airlines, non-alcoholic beverages/snacks, technology and energy.
German sportswear giant Adidas provides the match ball to both the Champions League and the Europa League, but the supplier package will shift to an official licensee from 2018-19, and Molten has already picked up the contract for the secondary competition.