Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Old news to some of you, perhaps, but yesterday's agreement between UNICEF and FC Barcelona is one of the great marketing coups of all time.

99% of all teams have shirt sponsors. It's a way of paying the bills. Barca, famously, have never had one. This is because their club has a quasi-mystical status vis-a-vis the Catalan national movement and it has been unthinkable - unthinkable! - to sully the colours of the club with mere commercialism. Barcelona are, after all, mes que un club.

(There is, of course, a high degree of sanctimonious nonsense in this. First, the club's colours have nothing to do with Catalonia - they are in fact the colours of the third-rate English public school where Swiss club founder Joan Gamper went to school. Second, the club's allegiance to Catalonia by no means extends to actually using Catalan players. Unlike Athletic Bilbao, which shows its commitment to the Basque/Euskari cause by fielding teams made up entirely of local players, Oleguer aside you have to look really hard to find a Catalan in the blaugrana.)

Back to the story - it's been common knowledge for the last 18 months or so that Barcelona were thinking of breaking with tradition and making a deal for a shirt sponsor. For some time, the Beijing olympics were mooted as a sponsor; back in Feburary the team was reported to be close to a world-record $25 million US per year deal with internet gambling firm Barcelona's Champions' League triumph in May (even though the first goal was offside, dammit) made any potential deal even more lucrative.

So it came as some surprise on Tuesday when the team announced that instead of selling its shirt, it was giving it away - to UNICEF. The details of the arrangement can be found here; in brief, the five-year deal commits Barcelona to donating 1.5 million euros per year to UNICEF in return for the "right" to use the UNICEF logo on any Barcelona product (the team beat Levski Sofia 5-0 on Tuesday while wearning the new shirts).

It's not all sweetness and light, however. The deal does not oblige Barcelona to use the UNICEF logo; should they do a deal with, say, betandwin next year they are still free to switch logos. The conspiracy theorists say that Barca are using the UNICEF deal to ease their fans into the idea of sponsors with a "soft" deal before signing a hard - and lucractive - deal later on.

Still, full marks to Barca. It's a great initiative and good on them.


Blogger Matthew said...

I'd have to see it again, but I'm pretty sure I remember explaining to others in the pub at the time that Barca's first goal in last year's final was definitely NOT off-side.

-Matt (a ref. not a Barca fan).

11:14 PM  
Blogger schuey said...

i guess it's also a good way to make a transition from a non logo company to a sponsor mentality.

NOt saying that's wrong, but the Unicef logo is yellow, and so could is the Bwin logo, no ?

7:16 AM  

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