EHF signs off landmark Infront-Perform deal worth close to €600m
Infront, the Wanda-owned international sports marketing agency, and Perform, the digital sports content and media group, have finalised their acquisition of the European Handball Federation’s commercial rights from 2020 to 2030 in an agreement worth between €500 million ($576 million) and €600 million in rights fees and services.
The record deal for handball was announced in Cologne on Sunday to coincide with the EHF Final4, the climax to European club handball's top competition, and will “transform” the sport, according to the federation.
Having teamed up in the invitation to tender process, Infront and Perform have secured all media and sponsorship rights packages to the EHF Euro from 2022 to 2030 and the European club competitions – the EHF Champions League, European Handball League and EHF Cup - from 2020 to 2030.
Broadcast and sponsorship rights to the European Championships are currently marketed by Infront, while broadcast and sponsorship rights to the EHF club competitions are sold by rival MP & Silva and EHF Marketing, the federation’s in-house commercial arm, respectively.
The lion’s share of the fees provided to the EHF from 2020 to 2030 will stem from media rights guarantees provided by Infront and Perform, with a total of €60 million in services understood to have been guaranteed by the duo. A revenue-share model will also kick in if the minimum guarantee is reached by sales.
Along with the financial commitments, the digital services on offer in the partnership are thought to have been key in securing the rights, and the EHF will be able to showcase live coverage of lower-profile events such as the women’s under-17 Euro for the first time.
After a second round of bidding, the Infront-Perform proposal was named as the preferred bid at the end of January, defeating an offer from IMG, plus a bid from MP & Silva in partnership with Sportradar (teaming up on digital operations), while there was also interest from Discovery Communications, the media group that owns Eurosport.
MP & Silva’s minimum guarantee for media rights for the current EHF club cycle is thought to be around €8 million per year.
The EHF appointed the SN1 Consulting rights agency to advise on the sales process and set a first-round deadline of 15 November, 2017 by which time a total of seven bids were lodged by agencies and broadcasters.
Speaking to Sportcal, EHF president Michael Wiederer underlined the “development potential” of the new agreement given the chance to reach out to new audiences.
He added: “It also gives us financial stability and makes it possible to plan in the mid term. The next step internally is to structure how to work with this money.”
Infront has worked with the EHF since the inaugural European Championship in 1994 and Wiederer said that the agency “knows the Euros and has various digital competences” it can offer.
It is understood that Infront and Perform will not set up a legal entity or joint corporate identity for the venture.
While the distribution of responsibilities remains flexible, both companies are expected to be jointly involved in the distribution of media rights, while Infront is take the lead in sponsorship sales and Perform on the digital marketing aspects. A strategy committee has also been set up to bring together representatives of the EHF, EHF Marketing, Infront and Perform.
The EHF recently held a digital workshop with the two companies and the federation has looked on with interest at the development of Perform’s work with FIBA on the back of the 17-year, €500-million agreement signed with basketball’s world body in 2016.
Jacopo Tonoli, Perform’s chief commercial officer, remarked: “We are delighted to announce this long-term partnership with the European Handball Federation and look forward to working closely with Infront and EHF, bringing handball to a new audience and entertaining a new breed of fan. At Perform Group we are changing the world of sport for fans and have a proven track record of working with some of the biggest rights-holders to help them commercialise and grow their sport.”
Philippe Blatter, Infront’s chief executive and president, added: “Our partnership with the EHF stretches back over two decades, and together over that time we have created a must-have product with the EHF Euros. This new agreement is testament to the fact that when we enter partnerships with sports properties, we bring great experience and value.”
Wiederer described the agreement as a “watershed” moment for handball and the EHF given that the Infront-Perform deal will shape club and national team handball both in financial terms and through “the huge potential it brings for future growth and development.”
David Szlezak, EHF Marketing’s managing director, noted: “The EHF Champions League has undergone a tremendous development since the founding of EHF Marketing in 2005. We have introduced clear standards, developed a high-quality media product and been successful in establishing both the men’s and women’s FINAL4s as the benchmark events in European indoor sport.
“There is still a lot of potential in the marketing of our sport and it seems that the market has taken notice of this. As the sports market experiences digital disruption, we are facing an exciting period of transformation and by bundling all of European handball’s media and marketing rights together we believe that we have taken the right step at the right time.”
There are not expected to be any changes to ehfTV.com, the EHF’s OTT platform, in the short term given EHF Marketing’s agreement with Sportradar that runs until 2020.
Sportradar is responsible for the installation and development of the OTT offering and marketing rights for all digital content relating to the club competitions, and it remains to be seen what will happen with the operation of the platform once the Infront-Perform agreement takes effect.