Sports Ticker #106: Liverpool's Adidas kit, a new athletics venture and the London Marathon – a speed read of commercial updates from the sports world

Published on 01 May 2024

In a fortnight which saw women's Rugby League launch its world-first player-run TikTok account, Ferrari's F1 partnership with HP, and Apple reportedly on the verge of a global broadcast deal for FIFA World Cup, we bring you updates on a new athletics joint venture, Wrexham AFC, and the disqualification of all three medallists in the Beijing half marathon.

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.

VAR-tually instant offside decisions

The Premier League has announced the upcoming introduction of semi-automated offside technology, shown in trials to reduce the average time for a VAR decision by 31 seconds. The technology uses camera footage and tracking software to determine the exact positions of players and the ball, with its AI able to interpret and model movements from the continuous flow of data. The technology also produces high-quality broadcast graphics which will enhance the viewer experience, deepening spectators' engagement with the game. Following a shareholder meeting, the Premier League released a statement saying clubs had "unanimously agreed" to the introduction of the technology. It aims to reduce delays and improve accuracy and consistency in decision making. Similar technology has already been used in the UEFA Champions League and the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and it will be introduced to the Premier League this autumn.

A venture with legs

UK Athletics, London Marathon Events and the Great North Run Company have teamed up to form a groundbreaking joint venture which aims to boost the popularity, commercial value, and future growth of athletics. The new company, Athletic Ventures, will organise key events such as the 2026 European Athletics Championship and will lead the UK's potential bidding process to host the 2029 World Athletics Championships. The UK Athletics Chief Executive, Jack Buckner, described Athletic Venture as a "groundbreaking model for the development of athletics". Highlighting its commercial potential, Paul Foster, CEO of the Great North Run Company, said it would "combine world class creative, broadcast and event operations with focused commercial and entrepreneurial vision". In other athletics news, a new women's-only world marathon record of 2:16:16 was set at London over the weekend by Peres Jepchirchir. Already reigning Olympic champion, she will now defend her title at Paris later this year.

Adidas done deal

Liverpool FC has reportedly agreed a new five-year kit supplier deal with Adidas, who will replace Nike at the end of next season. Nike became Liverpool's kit supplier after a 2019 court battle in which incumbent supplier New Balance claimed matching rights to Nike's winning bid. The Adidas-Liverpool deal is expected to exceed the £50 million value of the current Nike deal, although it will not beat the league-wide record £90 million that Manchester United receives per season, also from Adidas. Adidas, who recently signed Liverpool and England star Trent Alexander-Arnold in a £26 million boot deal (covered in our Sports Ticker #99), has implemented an aggressive strategy following the shock loss of its German Football Association contract to Nike (read about that here). Adidas currently supplies the kits for Arsenal, Fulham, and Nottingham Forest, and will begin supplying kit to Aston Villa and Newcastle United from 2024.

McLaren Racing to the future

McLaren Racing has extended its partnership with Logitech G, the global peripherals and hardware manufacturer. The partnership began in 2017 and aims to "blur the line between virtual and real-world racing". This includes Logitech G's role as gaming wheel and pedal partner for both the McLaren Formula 1 team and the McLaren Shadow sim racing team. The two will also collaborate by hosting the Logitech McLaren Challenge sim racing event, which has seen more than 100,000 competitors to date. Matt Dennington, Co-chief Commercial Officer at McLaren Racing, said "Sim racing continues to go from strength to strength. We're thrilled to be extending our partnership with Logitech". The partnership in 2022 saw McLaren Shadow achieve great success in the F1 Esports series, where they won the drivers' and constructors' championships. Logitech, meanwhile, has had success of its own, having secured a multi-year extension with Danish esports organisation Astralis.

Wrexham gets thirsty

Gatorade has become the official sports drink of Wrexham AFC, the club has announced. PepsiCo revealed that the club's celebrity co-chairmen, Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds, had approached the company for discussions, sealing the deal after working together during the 2023/2024 season. The partnership will not just fuel players on the pitch, as Gatorade is offering access to innovative tools such as sweat testing and customised fuel plans through its Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Gatorade will be featured at matches and as part of the upcoming season of the FX series "Welcome to Wrexham", which documents the club's trials, tribulations and fairytale rise through the league pyramid. Gatorade's President and General Manager, Michael Del Pozzo, said "We at Gatorade are thrilled to welcome Wrexham AFC, who have captivated global soccer and pop culture fans alike, as our newest partner." The deal comes ahead of the club's Wrex Coast Tour of the United States this summer, which marks the second visit to the States for the men's team and the first for the women's.


Extra time...

…and finally, a controversial result at the Beijing half marathon has seen the first four finishers stripped of their prizes and the top three runners' medals revoked. China's (formerly) gold medallist, He Jie, completed the half marathon in one hour, three minutes and 44 seconds. However, an investigation by the race's organisers was conducted after video footage appeared to show three other athletes allegedly decelerating, allowing He Jie to overtake them. In the footage, Kenyan athletes, Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat, and Ethiopian athlete, Dejene Hailu, can be seen slowing down near the finish line and waving He Jie past. The trio claimed to be participating as pacemakers. However, the investigation found that none of the athletes were officially registered as pacemakers, and therefore their behaviour was a breach of the competition rules. According to China's state broadcaster, all four athletes have since faced punishment and had their results voided.

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