Sponsorship & Broadcast Deals: Saudi Arabia
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC), last year, canceled and withdrew BeIN Sport's right to AFC properties across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region; the governing body followed by reissuing an invitation to tender (ITT) for the media package in 10 countries of the region, on a territory-by-territory basis. However, there has been no follow-up news on the outcome of the bid, as the AFC is yet to make any public announcement. AFC Champion's League and Cup official sponsors include Allianz, Nikon, QNB, Konami, Emirates, Kärcher, BeIN Sports, and Toyota. Below, is an overview of the AFC's commercial rights in MENA and/or Asia.
AFC Commercial Rights in MENA
- The AFC’s commercial rights partners include official sponsors, official supporters, and broadcast partners. According to the official website of the AFC Champions League, the official sponsors are Allianz, BeIN Sports, Emirates, Kärcher, Nikon, QNB, and Toyota. The supporting partners include C'estbon Beverage, Konami, Molten, and Seiko. The same is applicable for the AFC Cup.
- The Football Marketing Asia (FMA) is the AFC’s recently-rebranded exclusive commercial rights agency. "While the agency has the mandate to sell global media and sponsorship rights to all AFC competitions over eight years, from 2021 to 2028, the media rights in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are excluded from the agreement, as the AFC launched territory-by-territory rights sales in the region."
- Specifically, AFC launched these rights sales for the forthcoming rights cycle in 10 countries across the Middle East — Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Oman, Qatar, Syria, and Yemen. The rights on offer include the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup. A similar process was also slated for Iran and Saudi Arabia. This came after BeIN Sports, the initial holder of media rights in the region, had its rights removed by the AFC and the inability of both parties to agree on the sponsorship renewal.
Official Sponsors: AFC Champions League and AFC Cup
- The AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup both share the same official sponsors and supporting partners, as stated above. These brands have AFC sponsorship rights, including the Champions League and AFC Cup, that span beyond the MENA region. Their sponsorship deals cover the AFC in general, of which the MENA region is a subunit.
- Allianz's official sponsorship deal with AFC "encompasses Asia’s most important club tournaments — including the AFC Champions League. The partnership program reaches a huge audience base across stadiums, television, and on diverse social and digital platforms." Signed in 2017, the four-year deal will expire in 2021 but no figure was released for the sponsorship.
- "The Emirates has been a partner of the Asian Football Confederation, the governing body of Asian football, since 2002. Along with sponsorship rights to all its tournaments — including the AFC Champions League." In 2009, "it extended its sponsorship of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for four more years," at an annualized value of $9 million and the overall value of $36 million.
- "Nikon has been sponsoring Asian Football Confederation (AFC) football events since 2004 through which it contributes to the development of football in the region." As part of the deal, players escort kids onto the pitch while holding hands, the Nikon logo is made visible around the pitch at all matches, and visible on the photographers' bibs. Nikon Service Depot, at selected matches, also provides technical and equipment support with camera maintenance and equipment rental for the matches’ accredited photographers. No deal size was published.
- The QNB Group became an official AFC commercial partner in 2014 where it signed a three-year deal. "The agreements saw QNB Group, QP, Qatargas, and RasGas join the select band of companies sponsoring events such as the AFC Asian Cup, the AFC Champions League, and the AFC Cup." The deal size was not published.
- Toyota has been an official sponsor of the AFC since 2005. In 2012, it expanded its sponsorship deal with the governing body to include club competitions, such as the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup, in a two-year deal, for an undisclosed amount.
- Kärcher became an AFC sponsorship partner in 2018 in a three-year sponsorship deal that includes the AFC club competitions, such as the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup. As part of the deal, "Kärcher’s brand would feature prominently in more than 190 matches in stadiums across the continent, be visible on press conferences backdrops, in on-site TV commercials, in competition-related print materials as well as online." No deal value was published although "the deal falls under the umbrella of Lagardere Sport’s all rights representation deal that expires at the end of 2020."
Media/Broadcast Rights: MENA Region and Asia
- "BeIN Sports has been a broadcast partner of the AFC in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) for almost ten years." While the media company lost its exclusive rights of AFC contents across MENA, its initial broadcasting deal is reported to worth about $300 million.
- As mentioned, the AFC, for the first time, split the adverts for the media rights for all AFC matches including the Champions League and AFC Cup in the region on a territory-by-territory basis — starting with the highlighted 10 countries in 2020. However, research into these countries such as Saudi Arabia, AFC press releases, and other third-party related reports suggest that while media agencies may have submitted their bids, AFC is yet to agree or announce any media rights deal for any of the 10 countries. This further explains why there's no publicly available information beyond AFC's invitation for bids for these 10 countries and the region.
- In Iran, "the Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI) has claimed that an AFC Champions League broadcast deal in the country has been terminated by the AFC due to 'international sanctions.' The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the state-controlled broadcaster in Iran, is the incumbent rights-holder in the country but the FFIRI said that its agreement has been canceled and the broadcast signal withheld."
- Beyond the MENA region, the AFC announced that DDMC Fortis secured an exclusive eight-year deal worth a reported $4 billion with the AFC, "fighting off bids from the likes of IMG, Infront, and Mediapro, as well as a joint effort from Perform, Dentsu and Lagardère Sports." "The deal gives the exclusive rights to DDMC Fortis to market all AFC’s commercial properties for the next two cycles that take place from 2021–2028.
- "The deal ended a 27-year relationship between the AFC and the team at Lagardère Sports, a relationship that started in 1993 with a deal between the AFC and the Singapore-based World Sport Group agency, which was later acquired by Lagardère." This deal will end by the end of 2020.
- The historic deal established DDMC Fortis as the exclusive agency for the AFC during the period 2021-2028. Hence, it can then market AFC properties to other media agencies in Asia (except the MENA region) such as its 8-year deal with CJ E&M in Korea, one of the most valuable territories for the content. Other examples are the agency's 4-year media rights deal with the Indonesian media group, MNC, as well as another in Taiwan.
- In June 2020, DDMC Fortis rebranded to Football Marketing Asia, as it prepares to start the operational phase (since its media rights deal should begin by the end of 2020 or early 2021).