It’s not just Apple and Samsung insists Alcatel CEO after penning local sponsorship with Liverpool FC

Mobile phone maker Alcatel has turned to Liverpool Football Club in a bid to overturn a lack of brand awareness in Australia, with its chief executive claiming the partnership will help lift its profile among fans of all English Premier League teams.


Liverpool ambassador John Barnes and Alcatel CEO Sam Skontos

Former Liverpool and England star John Barnes, now a brand ambassador for the Merseyside outfit, told Mumbrella the deal will also bring its local supporters closer to the club as it aims to further expand its global fan base.

Under the three-year deal, Alcatel will become the “official partner and official smartphone” of Liverpool in Australia and New Zealand, with users of its phone and tablet offered exclusive content and “money can’t buy moments” including VIP trips to Liverpool’s home ground of Anfield.

Liverpool, without an English league title since 1990 and which has rarely threatened to end that quarter-of-a-century drought, remains a powerhouse of British football, with its fan base in Australia and NZ “huge”, Alcatel CEO Sam Skontos said.

“A lot of people think only Apple and Samsung exist in this market, but they seem to forget the young, the old and the credit challenged and that is who we go after,” Skontos said. “It’s those who can’t afford an Apple or a Samsung.

“But we need to expose our brand and expand our awareness and this is what the Liverpool partnership will do. They are huge here and have a massive following.”

Skontos said Alcatel holds a 20% share of the pre-paid phone market in Australia, but admitted its profile has generally been low despite holding sponsorship deals with NRL side Rabbitohs and AFL club Greater Western Sydney.

“We are number three in the smartphone market in Australia and New Zealand but a lot of consumers don’t know we exist,” he said.

Asked if aligning with one EPL club could alienate fans of other teams, Skontos said: “It’s a tricky one. You always run that risk, but the one thing you get is people to take notice. You get cut through in terms of consumers knowing you exist as a brand.

“By sponsoring such a high profile club all EPL followers will immediately know that we exist and know we are a smartphone company. They are the two objectives I am trying to achieve.”

Among the marketing efforts will be outdoor advertising with images of Liverpool players, merchandising and events.

Skontos added that while the deal only relates to Australia and New Zealand, the prospect remains of expanding the sponsorship to Asia, where, despite its lack off success in recent years, Liverpool remains hugely popular.

For Barnes, who made 314 appearances for Liverpool between 1987 and 1997, Australia is another port of call in his role to promote the club around the world.


John Barnes in his playing days for Liverpool, left, and Watford

He told Mumbrella that while his role as Liverpool brand ambassador is largely to mix with fans, sign autographs and talk football in countless media interviews, brands such as Alcatel receive clear benefits.

“Football is the driver because football is big news, but that is also how you get the message out there about brand relationships,” he said.

For football clubs too, globe-trotting is a necessity in the continuing drive to commercialise brands, shift merchandise and ultimately provide a return for already supremely wealthy owners.

“As a football club you have to keep marketing,” Barnes said. “You can’t rest on your laurels and think ‘we’re Liverpool so we don’t need be out there’. You also have to give something back and that is why (former Liverpool player and manager) Kenny Dalgish, (ex-Liverpool striker) Ian Rush and myself travel around the world.”

Barnes rejected suggestions that football has sold its soul or that clubs have deserted their roots in their insatiable quest to globalise.

“You can reminisce about the way things were but if you speak to modern people they will tell you that this is what it is,” he said. “It is modern football. I don’t see it as losing its soul. It’s developing a new soul and a new way of looking at things. It’s not right, it’s not wrong. It’s just the way it is.

“It’s modern sport and modern life. Football has become more of a business and I suppose the challenge for everyone is getting that balance right between business and sport, but I think it’s going ok.

“Ultimately the reason why brands want to get involved is because of the sport itself. The fans who buy the brands love the sport, be if football, Aussie Rules or rugby. I think everyone recognises that this is the way modern life, and modern sport, is.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.