Sports Ticker #101: AB InBev's Olympic Gold, UEFA's commercial rights, and Snooker in Saudi Arabia – a speed read of commercial updates from the sports world

Published on 02 February 2024

In a fortnight which saw F1 owner Liberty Media named the "World's Most Valuable Sports Empire 2024", the 2023 Rugby World Cup confirmed as the most-watched rugby event of all time, and the shock announcement of Lewis Hamilton's move to Ferrari, we bring you updates on AB InBev's Olympic partnership, UEFA's tender process for global commercial rights, and British Cycling's uphill struggle.

As always, if there are any issues on which you'd like more information (or if you have any questions or feedback), please do let us know or get in touch with your usual contact at RPC.

AB InBev wins gold

World-leading brewer AB InBev has been selected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to be a 'Worldwide Olympic Partner' through to 2028. This will include branding and placement opportunities at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The sponsorship will be led by the brewer's non-alcoholic Corona Cero brand, with AB InBev's CEO stating that "beer is the beverage of moderation and choice, and so it's only fitting to lead with Corona Cero." This highlights both AB InBev's and the IOC's desire to champion health-conscious choices and responsible alcohol consumption. Additionally, AB InBev is contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in line with the Olympic Agenda 2020+5. The partnership will commence with the Paris 2024 Olympics this summer.

UEFA kicks off commercial rights tender

UEFA has launched a process to sell global commercial rights to women's football tournaments covering a 5-year cycle from 2025-26 to 2029-30. The packages would include sponsorship and media rights for the Champions League, European Championships, Futsal Championships and various age-group tournaments. Streaming service DAZN holds worldwide broadcast rights to the UEFA Women's Champions League (UWCL), and has recently announced its 'New Deal for Women's Football' to help promote the game. Under this campaign, DAZN will lift its paywall on all women's football matches. DAZN's co-CEO of women's sport stated that they are "committed to fostering and cultivating fandom for women's football" and continuing to expand their viewership; their coverage of the 2022-23 UWCL drew 55.2 million views, up 19% from the previous campaign.

A "stump"-endous renaming for Hampshire cricket ground

Hampshire's cricket ground, formerly known as the Ageas Bowl, has been renamed the Utilita Bowl following a naming-rights agreement with Utilita Energy. The rebranding aligns with the club's aspiration to become the "world's greenest cricket ground." The Utilita Bowl plans to install more than 1,000 solar panels, generating 25% of the stadium's annual electricity and significantly reducing costs, contributing to environmental sustainability by saving around 80 tonnes of carbon emissions annually. Despite these eco-friendly initiatives, local residents have protested against Hampshire's proposal to build a 171-home development near West End, expressing concerns about the impact on the local area. In a separate cricket development, Indian conglomerate Tata Group has secured the title sponsorship of the Indian Premier League for 2024-2028, agreeing a record-breaking deal worth $300 million, emphasising the league's premier status and unprecedented global appeal.

Breaking Traditions: Saudi Arabia's Snooker Venture with a Golden Twist  

Saudi Arabia's recent venture into snooker, part of its broader involvement in global sports, has garnered international attention. The Riyadh Season World Masters of Snooker, scheduled for early March, introduces a unique element – the "Riyadh Season ball", a 23rd ball worth 20 points, elevating the maximum break to 167. While some see this as a unique feature, others express concern about its impact on the sport's traditional mechanics. Additionally, negotiations between Saudi Arabia and the World Snooker Tour for a 10-year deal on a full-ranking tournament are underway, reflecting the kingdom's growing interest in professional sports. Details about the implementation of the new ball are awaited, with the snooker community expressing curiosity and some reservations about the potential implications for the sport's future.

Uphill struggle for British cycling 

The future of the Women's Tour – the leading women's cycling event in Britain – is under threat. Its owner and promoter, SweetSpot, has entered voluntary liquidation in the face of legal disputes worth over £1 million. British cycling's governing body, British Cycling is said to be owed £750,000 in unpaid rights fees relating to the Tour of Britain, which SweetSpot had previously managed. The Isle of Wight council is also reportedly considering a claim against SweetSpot for £350,000 of fees attached to the scrapped final leg of the 2022 Tour of Britain which was cancelled following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The Women's Tour already faced an uphill struggle, having not taken place in the 2023 season due to a lack of funding. British Cycling has promised further information around men's and women's 2024 cycling events in the coming weeks.


Extra time...

…and finally, looking forwards to Sports in 2024. This year sees the men's Euros and the Paris Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games taking place, as well as annual favourites such as the Six Nations, Wimbledon, and the FA Cup finals. The UK will host some of the year's biggest sporting events, including the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Glasgow, and the UEFA Champions League final at Wembley Stadium. More broadly, forecasters are predicting that key trends to look out for in 2024 include OpenAI transforming the way sports are played, organised, and consumed, an increased focus on sustainability and inclusivity, and significant development in the African sports market thanks to growing interest and investment in the currently unrealised sporting potential of the continent. The Sports Ticker team looks forwards to bringing you fortnightly updates throughout what is sure to be an eventful year.