Premium blend: Lavazza’s plan to perk up its UK operation with Arsenal and Liverpool

22 November 2018 | Commercial & Sponsorship
Premium blend: Lavazza’s plan to perk up its UK operation with Arsenal and Liverpool
​After entering the the Premier League soccer sponsorship market with Arsenal and Liverpool this week, UK managing director of Italian coffee giant Lavazza, David Rogers, explains how the deals are part of a strategy to broaden the brand’s target market.

Lavazza sells 27 billion cups of coffee a year but it wants to sell more of it in the UK.

That is the upshot of a decision the Italian brand took to sign sponsorship deals with two Premier League soccer giants, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Lavazza will be the official coffee partner of both clubs, fulfilling a designation that would have been difficult to conceive of when the company launched in the UK in 1990 but which looks a neater fit in an altogether more cosmopolitan era of English soccer and a more java-obsessed in the country at large.

For Lavazza, the deals mark something of a departure from some of its other projects. It is a partner of Italian soccer champions Juventus, who are based in its hometown of Turin, and is active elsewhere in media and entertainment, but its UK sponsorships are centred around more serene events like tennis’ Wimbledon and horse racing’s Royal Ascot meeting. Founded in 1895, this remains a family-owned operation, fronted by Vice Presidents and cousins Giuseppe and Marco – the former joking at the press launch that it was easier to sign with two clubs as it gave them one each. But it is also a company intent on conquering as much its market as possible.

Joining Giuseppe and Marco Lavazza in London, alongside commercial executives from each club and legends Robert Pires and Ian Rush, was Lavazza UK Managing Director David Rogers. He discussed the reasoning behind the twin partnerships, and how the brand aims to use them to help get all kinds of British consumers to drink all kinds of Lavazza coffee.

How did these partnerships with Arsenal and Liverpool come about?

Lavazza started looking at football partnerships in earnest probably about two or three years ago, and what we realised was that football has changed – particularly in the UK. It’s no longer seen as being a sort of working class sport. In fact, the offering to supporters has ‘premiumised’ no end.

As such, we saw football, with its mass statistics for supporters and watching the game, as a huge opportunity to build on our sports strategy. We did quite a lot of research into the two clubs, Liverpool and Arsenal. The values the two clubs have was not lost on us. And there was a really important statistic that played a big role in this, which was that both clubs are actually quite often football fans’ second favourite clubs.

They’ll watch Arsenal because they play great football – they don’t always win, but they love the brand of football – and Liverpool are also known for that fantastic type of football. Once we discovered that we were over the problems of: ‘Did we alienate Tottenham supporters, Chelsea supporters or Manchester United supporters?’ Both clubs actually showed us some fairly convincing statistics.

Had it always been on the table to work with two clubs rather than a single one?

Yes. We actually felt that through our expansion in the UK, we wanted one club that was based more in the south, in London, and one to use as a passport to expansion towards more of the northern part of the country – and Liverpool’s not the north, we know that, geographically.

When that combined with the family values both clubs have, the history both clubs have, the flamboyance of the football, and matched with our family values and the way in which our coffee premiumises events, it came together in that perfect form.

Coincidentally, both clubs realised at the same time that they needed to improve their coffee experience. So it fell together in this way.

How do your activities in the UK compare to that work in other territories?

In the US, of course, it’s very different. The common theme in sport is Lavazza’s sponsorship of the four tennis Grand Slams, so we leverage the US Open in New York but it’s such a vast country that it’s actually not possible to do the things that you can do in the UK, for example. The Jerry Seinfeld work is more about just building awareness of the Lavazza brand in the USA.

For us, this strategy is absolutely perfect. What we actually do is we align the brand to moments of enjoyment of UK consumers. So we have partnerships now with Arsenal and Liverpool of course, but also with Wimbledon, with Royal Ascot, and with London Fashion Week. So all of these events allow us to introduce Lavazza to a different echelon, a different part of UK society.

If we just wanted awareness, it doesn’t work because everybody sees us as just the way of having the espresso coffee that, actually, only ten per cent of UK consumers drink. So where we engage at these different events, it’s about giving these consumers coffee in the way that they want to have it. So Lavazza’s able to prepare coffee in many different ways: from espresso, obviously, right through to flat white, latte, cappuccino, or in fact whatever you want.

Are you making a conscious effort to become more of a broad consumer brand in the UK?

[It’s] definitely, more of a conscious effort to expand. It’s partly for awareness reasons. One of the great elements of this partnership is that some of the players are appearing in the Lavazza corporate advertising that’s going to break at the end of November and run up to Christmas, and that is about enjoying Lavazza in every way that you can think of and features the two sets of players.

You’ll be selling your coffee at the Emirates Stadium and Anfield. Will there also be branded products created?

We have a multi-faceted deal so, incredibly, it depends on the way that the club’s run. Liverpool has its own catering arrangement. Arsenal actually use a third party, so in actual fact our products are sold to the two catering organisations and they then sell them to the consumers. Our expertise is about setting that up correctly so that the quality of the coffee is good in each different area that there actually is.

Then there’s another interesting side where Lavazza makes fantastic little coffee machines, so we’re creating a coffee machine in the colours of Arsenal and Liverpool, and then their supporters can access those machines as well.

Is this a bridge for you to a different kind of sponsorship activity as well?

At the moment, there are no plans to go any further. We’re actually concentrating on the very, very rich equity that we have right now which is all helping us premiumise the image of the brand. We’re not planning any further partnerships but I would never say never.

Lavazza moves in many different ways and will move with the times. That’s how it’s remained private but relevant over its 125-year history.

Are there any ways in which the clubs operate as media vessels that will be additive to what you do – particularly on the digital side?

Both teams actually have amazing digital departments and they’re both very active well outside the UK, in Asia and Africa, right the way round the world. We’re looking to develop some exciting things with them there and we will be featuring some of the players during that as part of the agreement.

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