Scarlets recently launched their new home kit for next season. Eighteen sponsors squeeze themselves onto the kit. The commercial team at the club claim it has increased sponsorship revenue by 70%. If this is true, then it seems like it could be a win for welsh region – especially amid multiple claims of financial concerns at a number of rugby clubs. Indeed, moves like the rebranding of Bristol Rugby to Bristol Bears highlight ways in which rugby union is still grappling with the demands professionalism has brought 23 years after the event.
The shirt itself, though it may be a win for revenue, is unsightly. Moreover, the very idea of squeezing 18 sponsors onto the kits seems to be a move with only the short-term in mind. I would love to know what the people at Macron thought about the move. Normally when we think of iconic kits we can picture the sponsor. For instance, every time I think of Ruud Van Nistelrooy I picture the red of United with the Nike tick and “Vodafone” written across his chest. If Scarlets go on to do anything special in this kit it seems unlikely people will remember the individual sponsors. Even the main sponsor, Juno Moneta, is lost in the fury of white splashes that compete for your attention. The approach is unlikely to nurture loyalty or attract big money bids in the future.
The fans as well are unlikely to be happy. Racing 92’s new kit relocates the logo to the bottom of the shirt in order to accommodate more lucrative space for their sponsors. Such a move will only anger fans in a sport that is big on its history.
The issue is complex. Scarlets need the revenue quickly, but it seems potential sponsors might be “turned off” by the lack of exclusivity on the shirt. A version of the sorites paradox is at play here: when does too many sponsors on a shirt stop being too many? Clubs need to capitalize on sponsorship in order to create revenue. This needs to be done in way that allows the sponsors to maximise the effectiveness of their investment. And in a way that doesn’t degrade the club and players to billboards. Luckily these two problems have a similar answer. It seems when it comes to kit sponsorship less really is more.