London’s Saracens Rugby Football Club announced Tuesday it will be joining forces with Chicago-based CME Group Inc. as a result of a long-term six-figure business deal. CME Group has agreed to sponsor the team and appear on Saracens’ match jerseys.
The partnership comes as an interesting move for the Chicago-based futures and options exchange and the North London rugby club.
CME Group, which has its European headquarters in London, is the world’s largest derivatives market exchange. It has been seeking company expansion — specifically in London — and determined that Saracens is an ideal business partner with similar goals.
“This is an exciting time for the company as we continue to globalise our business,” said William Knottenbelt, CME Group’s managing director for Europe, Middle East and Africa in a release. “The club combines a clear culture of declared values with an engaging ambition to become the most recognised club brand in the game.”
Founded in 1876, Saracens Rugby Football Club plays in the Aviva Premiership in the United Kingdom and has won the Premiership once, in 2011. The club’s current front jersey sponsor is Allianz SE, an insurance agency whose London office is based on the other side of the Square Mile business district from CME Group.
The deal comes after another American firm, Comcast Corp., agreed to have CNBC’s logo sit on the front of Saracens’ jerseys, above the main Allianz sponsor logo.
As a result of CME’s deal, Saracens playing jerseys will feature the CME Group’s logo on the back, and an entrance gate at Allianz Park has been renamed “CME Group Gate.” The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Exposure for the sport rugby union is slowly growing in the U.S. The American national rugby team will be playing New Zealand’s All Blacks at Soldier Field in November, and Aviva Premiership matches can now be watched on the Fox Soccer Channel. Saracens also have two members of the current American national team, Chris Wyles and Hayden Smith, on their roster. This has some marketing researchers wondering if these types of deals will become more commonplace.
“It’s progressive for an American company,” said Matt Boyer, the vice president of client services at rEvolution Marketing LLC, a sports marketing agency in Chicago. Boyer compared the deal to American International Group Inc.’s jersey sponsorship of Manchester United Football Club from 2006 to 2010, when the insurance firm was not particularly well-known in the U.K.
“If you’re going to go with rugby, you go with a top-flight team. There’s a reason [CME] chose Saracens – they’re a top-flight team. As far as the club goes, they’ve got a strong group of supporters and a new stadium,” Boyer added.
“We have moved our commercial and sales teams into the City of London, and we look forward to a long and successful partnership with the CME Group, in whom we have found a kindred spirit,” said Nigel Wray, the Saracens chairman in a release.
Speaking on whether the investment will pay off for CME Group and Saracens, Boyer said, “Only time will tell.”