LEEDS: Brands spend more than £220m a year sponsoring the shirts of players in the top two divisions of English football, yet at least 30% of that investment is being wasted through a failure to engage with fans, new research has stated.

Major brands – including American Express, Etihad Airways and Samsung – spend an estimated £200m a year on the 20 Premier League clubs and a further £20m on the 24 clubs in the Football League Championship, England's second-ranking division.

According to Aberfield Communications, a PR and brand engagement agency based in Yorkshire, 30% of Premier League shirt sponsors and nearly half (46%) of Championship sponsors show very little evidence of engaging with fans.

The report argued that for sponsorship to work effectively, football fans need to know more than just the brand's name.

"They need to understand how and why the brand fits into their lives," the report said, adding that this applied to all brands whether they are local, national or global.

Aberfield researchers examined publicly available information on the sponsorship activation programmes of every main shirt sponsor over the past three seasons.

They looked at whether each brand succeeded or not in communicating with fans through events, promotions, offers, community programmes and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

How these brands used media, including social networks, to communicate their values and sponsorship objectives to drive customer loyalty and generate new customers also formed part of the research.

Brands considered to be demonstrating little or no audience engagement included some well-known names, such as American Express (sponsor of Brighton & Hove Albion), supermarket chain Waitrose (Reading), Virgin Trains (Preston NE) and Suzuki, the Japanese vehicle manufacturer (MK Dons).

There were several other brands that indexed lower than these household names in the Championship, but they tended to be local brands.

Turning to the Premier League, which is watched in more than 200 countries around the world, the report highlighted four brands as being very effective sponsors.

They included two British companies that have an historic or geographical connection with a local club – electronics firm Veho (Southampton) and the Aviva insurance group (Norwich), which used to be called Norwich Union.

The report described Veho as "the best-possible example of the benefits of a community-based sponsor", while Aviva was regarded as "the perfect sponsor" because of its wide range of engagement activities involving fans.

Samsung, the Korean electronics giant, was also considered to be active and the report said its association with Chelsea has helped it to become a "truly global brand" by engaging with the club's large worldwide fanbase.

Standard Chartered, the Asia-focused financial services group, has taken a similar approach with its sponsorship of Liverpool, the report added.

Data sourced from Aberfield Communications; additional content by Warc staff