Sports Ticker: YEEZY back on sale, a new anti-piracy task force and PUMA to outfit F1 – a speed-read of commercial updates from the sports world

Published on 30 May 2023

In a fortnight which saw Manchester City win the Premier League trophy and flooding in northern Italy cancel the F1 Imola Grand Prix, we bring you updates on Unilever's sponsorship of the FIFA Women's World Cup, a new taskforce to tackle sports streaming piracy and PUMA becoming the official outfitter of Formula 1. We also feature stories on Adidas' plan for its remaining YEEZY stock and Women's World Rugby's partnership with Gallagher.

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.

Unilever take personal care of FIFA Women's World Cup

Unilever's personal care brands including Dove, Rexona, Lifebuoy and Lux will sponsor the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, due to take place in Australia and New Zealand this summer. The partnership, which will extend until 2027, will also see Unilever provide funding and human resources for FIFA's Women's Development Programme which aims to grow the women’s game worldwide and provide women and girls with opportunities in the sport. The Women’s World Cup is expected to attract over 2 billion viewers worldwide and organisers are hoping to reach attendance figures of 1.5 million over 64 matches, making it the largest standalone women’s sporting event to date. Unilever hope to reach this engaged fanbase with their existing community-focused campaigns, such as the Dove Self-Esteem Project, and by providing 80,000 personal care gift packs to fans at FIFA events.

Not breezy for leftover YEEZY products as Adidas announce charity sale

German sportswear giant Adidas announced it will once again sell trainers and other products developed in collaboration with Kanye West, after pulling them from sale and cutting ties with the rapper following alleged antisemitic comments he made last year. Chief executive Bjørn Gulden revealed the plans at a recent shareholder meeting, confirming that Adidas had decided to sell the merchandise rather than donating it, as it did not want the products to reach the market indirectly. Burning the merchandise was also not considered a solution. Instead, a "significant amount" of the proceeds will be donated to charities dedicated to combatting racism and antisemitism. Around £1 billion of YEEZY shoes are currently in storage. Adidas has said that not repurposing this stock would damage operating profit by €500m this year, threatening the first annual loss in over 30 years.

DAZN and beIN hope to make illegal streamers walk the plank

Online piracy of illegal sports streams amounted to almost $71 billion in lost revenue last year according to the Global Innovation and Policy Centre. To tackle this growing issue, sports streaming service DAZN and broadcaster beIN are publicly endorsing a new task force aimed at addressing online sports piracy. The task force will be run by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (Ace), a US based anti-piracy coalition, and will work with Europol and Interpol to shut down businesses providing illegal streams. Ace and beIN have already collaborated successfully against this issue, closing down a popular Morocco-based illegal streaming service just before the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Piracy poses a threat to broadcasters and consumers, according to the Digital Citizens Alliance, which has found that a third of pirate sites target users with malware. An industry study found that 50% of users paid a fee for their illegal stream, with many willing to pay to switch to legal providers. DAZN COO highlighted the importance of the task force to target "criminal gangs who are damaging sport at all levels, often using fans' credit cards and data for illegal purposes".

PUMA put the pedal to the metal with Formula 1 Partnership

PUMA and Formula 1 have announced a new partnership that will make the sportswear outfitter an official supplier of Formula 1 branded clothing, footwear and accessories. PUMA has a long history with motorsport, producing racing gear since the 1980's. As part of the deal, stichd, a subsidiary of PUMA, will acquire exclusive rights to sell Formula 1 licensed products and replica teamwear at future races. From 2024, fans will see Formula 1 race day staff in uniforms designed and produced by PUMA. The partnership comes off the back of the marked rise in popularity of Formula 1 racing over recent years. PUMA CEO Arne Freundt has described the deal as “an exciting opportunity to further explore this blend of motorsports and lifestyle”. Products will be available globally on and in PUMA stores.

Gallagher insures key partnership with World Rugby

World Rugby have announced a multi-year partnership with global insurance broker and risk management firm Gallagher, that will see them support the 2025 Rugby World Cup and World Rugby’s wider commitments to expand and promote the women’s game. Gallagher will become an official partner of new offering WXV, a three-tier, 18 team international women’s rugby competition designed to “revolutionise the women’s international rugby landscape” according to a World Rugby press release. The new development and leadership programme Gallagher High Performance Academy will help to identify, support and champion female coaches and other women in high performing roles in the sport. The programme will initially focus on future World Cup hosts England, Australia and the USA, with the aim to roll out globally in the future. Gallagher, an existing supporter of the mens' game, “cares deeply about rugby and is committed to increasing the opportunity for women both on and off the field” according to Sally Horrox, World Rugby Chief of Women’s Rugby.

Extra time...

… and finally, RPC recently hosted Saracens stars Flo Williams (Wales), Poppy Cleall and Sarah McKenna (both Red Roses) for a lunchtime Q&A hosted by Sports Ticker's own Samuel Coppard. The fascinating session explored the development of the women's rugby (including their incredible performance in this year’s TikTok Six Nations), the future of the game, the challenges they've faced in getting to where they are and the recent Rugby Football Union announcements around enhanced maternity rights for players. Saracens currently sit a close third on the Premier 15s table, and last week secured a major partnership with specialist bank Shawbrook. The bank will become the teams Official Banking Partner and a partner of the club’s charitable foundation. Shawbrook’s logo will be displayed on the back of playing kit for Saracens’ three professional teams – Saracens Men’s and Women’s rugby teams and the Saracens Mavericks netball team. A huge thank you to Flo, Poppy, Sarah and Saracens for helping to put on such an amazing event!