Europe widens its Champions League brand in Asia

The UEFA Champions League is promoting its brand profile in Asia and building a licensed merchandising business similar to that of the FIFA World Cup as a new revenue stream. ''Definitely, one of our strategies is to increase sub-licensees and the availability of Champions League products,'' said Robert Faulkner, head of media services for the Union of European Football Associations. ''But as our brand is very strong, we control very strictly the use of the logo, image, and the name of the Champions League.'' Faulkner outlined the strategy to Charoen Kittikanya of The Bangkok Post during a visit last week to Thailand, part of the first UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour of Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand that has been sponsored by Heineken.

UEFA currently has a certain number of sub-licensees that produce specific target products, such as Panini sticker albums, and Smoby, which makes table football games, DVDs and computer games. Discussions are now under way with Warner Bros to produce all the licensed merchandise products including cups, mascots and mini-balls. Warner Bros Consumer Products has a long-term strategic licensing agreement with UEFA and has been appointed the exclusive worldwide licensing representative for the UEFA Euro 2008 national club tournament, which will be held in Austria and Switzerland.

However revenue from licensed merchandise remains relatively small for UEFA which earns most of its money from TV rights sales and sponsorship fees. The gross income for the UEFA Champions League for the current 2006-07 season is estimated at US$750 millionwith television and commercial contracts contributing US$743.3 million and new media US$6.7 million. Under its regulations, 75% of the total revenue from television and commercial contracts, up to maximum of US$530 million, will go to the competing clubs, while the remaining 25% covers organisation and administrative costs, as well as football development in Europe.

"By creating initiatives like the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour, we are making the UEFA Champions League experience more accessible to local football fans and enabling them to share in the magic of Europe's best club competition," said Michele Centenaro, UEFA's head of club competitions, last month. "It is such an important trophy for the players - it symbolises the ultimate peak for all great footballers. They see the trophy as something sacred, as the holy grail. And that is exactly why we have brought it to Asia - to allow fans to come close to this ultimate football prize," added UEFA's marketing and media rights director Philippe Le Floc'h.