In search of the greatest sports marketing moment

NFL versus rugby
(c) NFL / Getty Images

It’s not often that I will post about work-related content here, but the latest debate raging over on Synergy’s blog is actually pretty thought-provoking (well, for those in the sports industry at least).

Any sports fans out there remember when Twenty20 was first ‘invented’? Or when Nike burst onto the scene helping Michael Jordan hit his jump shot? Or even, for the veteran fans amongst you, when NFL was first broadcast on our TV screens?

Well, whatever you think the biggest moment was, Synergy wants to hear about it. We’ve started a bit of a debate going by naming an initial top 12 (below), but we’re a friendly, modest bunch and open to suggestions of things we’ve missed. Have a look at the below, and let us know what you think by commenting on the original blog post here.

And eventually we’ll put up a poll and get to the official #1. But only with your help. So what’s it to be? Let us know…

  1. 1960 – a promising American golfer called Arnold Palmer shook hands over a representation deal with his friend and Yale law grad, Mark McCormack. This handshake was the start of IMG and birth of modern sports marketing.
  2. 1968 – After the NFL and AFL merged in 1966 the first two championship games between the two winners were called, snappily, the NFL-AFL World Championship. KC Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt then came up with the term Super Bowl for the game after seeing his grandson playing with a Super Ball, (a densely elasticated ball) and a global phenomenon was born.
  3. 1976 – already prevalent abroad, Kettering Town became the first British football club to have a sponsor on its shirt – the deal may only have lasted four games but it changed the rules in the UK. The forward thinking brand? Kettering Tyres.
  4. 1978Horst Dassler and Patrick Nally created a sponsorship model for world events starting with The FIFA World Cup that other rights holders have followed ever since.
  5. 1978Bernie Ecclestone became chief executive of the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA) which culminated in Ecclestone securing the right for FOCA to negotiate television contracts turning F1 into the global financial phenomenon it is today.
  6. 1979 – Jack Nicklaus argues successfully for the inclusion of European (rather than just British) players in the Ryder Cup. This turned a struggling, one-sided tournament into what is today probably the most significant global event in golf.
  7. 1981 – the first major PPV boxing match between Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns was screened by Viacom Cablevision, the event sold over 50% of its subscribers for the fight and a new form of sports viewing was born.
  8. 1984 – Nike, a struggling sports shoe company, signed rookie Michael Jordan and created the first shoe named after a player – The Air Jordan.
  9. 1985Michael Payne restructured the IOC Marketing Programme creating TOPs – the building block of the most lucrative sponsorship format in the world.
  10. 1992 – The English First Division clubs resigned en-masse from the Football League and formed the Premier League which is now the most watched and most lucrative football league in the world with the format copied across the globe.
  11. 1995 – The first ever Extreme Games (later changed to X Games) was held with the backing of ESPN – it catapulted fringe sports into the mainstream, bringing with it vast corporate investment.
  12. 2003 – The ECB introduced the world to Twenty20 Cricket via the Twenty20 Cup between counties, the mould breaking game has gone on to be adopted across the globe with IPL changing the financial face of the sport.
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