Soccer and Pharma/BIOtech

Marketing alliances between well-known brand names and consumer products have long been a tradition for example Michael Jackson and Pepsi or George Clooney and Nespresso. Soccer clubs are also dependent on sponsor income and are working with many different industries like telecoms, airlines and insurances. Now prestigious Manchester United (Man U) has signed a marketing deal with a Korean Pharma company Cho-A Pharm. The logo of Man U will be placed on the Koreans OTC products which include nutraceuticals and dietary supplement products. Will this become a new trend in pharma advertising? Well, other companies like Novartis have already sponsored soccer clubs for a number of years. Novartis has been FC Basels main sponsor since 2004, which is the home town of the club and some of the key shareholders of Novartis have been very active in the club. In Brazil, J&J is actually one of the key partners and the logo omnipresent of the championship. It is estimated that the sponsorship costs J&J around USD 75m. The company is using the event to promote consumer products, medical devices/diagnostics and pharmaceutical businesses.

Two OTC companies in the US, LifeVantage and Herbalife are sponsoring US teams (Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy). Therefore OTC products that are bought by consumers without prescription can certainly benefit more from such marketing alliances. But also other sports are benefiting from such collaborations: UK Pro Bono Bio is the official supplier to top English premiership rugby club, Saracens. Rugby seems to be an ideal sport where pharma products can be very helpful.

However, there are also companies like Roche which explicitly are not involved in any sponsoring of professional or semiprofessional sports activities. Companies will probably have to approach with caution bearing in mind the regulations we have already seen imposed on tabacco and alcohol advertising.

Is it a coincidence that BIO in San Diego is taking place at the same time as the Fifa World Cup in Brazil? With it being four hours behind Brazil and delegates attending from all of the participating countries of the world cup, I suspect a very high interest in the games. Certainly, an exhibition booth with soccer games on will attract an additional crowd; hopefully J&J has thought about this as well. So could this be the start of a new alliance between Pharma / Biotech and Soccer.

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