Atlético Mineiro’s leadership in the Campeonato Mineiro 2020 will be defined on the playing field, but in a commercial sense, the team is already ahead thanks to sponsorship agreements with sports betting operators Betsul and Intralot.

The partnerships provide the club with a valuable liquidity injection in times of crisis, but also with new tools to engage with fans. “Bookmakers have the edge on the sponsorship market in Brazil because their products are online, which facilitates our communication with the fans,” said Pedro Melo, Commercial Director and Head of Sponsorships of Atlético Mineiro in an interview with SBC.

“Our relationship with Intralot and Betsul shows that the market will grow significantly,” he added. As operators, Mineiro’s sponsors can’t have official betting platforms yet, but they already offer different types of entertainment, such as Intralot’s Keno Minas game and draws to win signed jerseys on Betsul’s site.

“I am confident in the appeal that betting companies will display in Brazil. Currently, the market is ‘shy’, as the government hasn’t established a regulation yet. But once it’s enforced, the sports betting sector will see Brazil as the biggest leader.”

The sports betting industry in Brazil, just like in other jurisdictions, was forced to innovate in the ways it interacted with the public during the months where live events were cancelled due to the pandemic. Despite the fact that competitions are now in full force in the South American country, the months with no activity deeply hurt the clubs’ finances, compelling them to look for alternative sources of income to recover.

Estimates indicate that the country will suffer a 4.7% drop in its GDP, mainly due to the lack of commercial, tourist and industrial activities. In addition, it is believed that most of the 530 football teams in Brazil have debts, which can lead to massive bankruptcies. For this reason, the National Club Commission (CNC) suggested a 25% reduction in players’ salaries, but only Atlético Mineiro accepted the proposal. Through this initiative, the CNC would help lower category teams or amateur athletes.

Due to the drop in sales of television packages that broadcast Brazilian football, teams are expecting a 20% loss, and the local media argues that there was a large drop in revenue from pay-per-view options. The decision of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) to postpone the start of the Brazilian tournament from May to July resulted in a 18% drop when compared to 2019.

However, Atlético Mineiro has remained active, not only by signing agreements with bookmakers, but by offering exclusive content and benefits for fans. In this regard, Melo assured that “social networks were, without a doubt, the main tool used to engage fans.”

“They have also allowed us to refer them to our partners’ platforms, where they can access specific entertainment offerings.” The earnings obtained through these games and draws have been fully reinvested in the club, according to Melo.

As Brazil’s football adapts to the “new normal”, the team based in Belo Horizonte seeks to promote this type of digital interactions that generate more income to develop sports. The relationship with bookmakers has been a profitable commercial strategy to boost the Galo’s presence in the online world, while the sport continues to be played behind closed doors.

Discussing this subject, Betsul CEO Fernando Rivas said that the joint work between the operator and the club is a “huge potential to generate income” for the sport. The CEO added that they are very happy with this agreement, since they “believe that Atlético Mineiro will do a superior job than most of the other teams due to the quality of the new players,” and he stressed that “this team is one of the biggest in Brazil.”

The economic resources that football needs to navigate this period can be further strengthened when the sponsorship market is fully opened to all the possibilities that betting operators can bring. “Certainly, with an approved legislation and clear rules, the market will grow fast and the sports betting industry will improve,” said Pedro Melo.

Once they take that step, the European market will be the role model for Atlético Mineiro, as the director said: “The big players in the sponsorship field in Europe have been the betting companies”, since, as they have shown, “they have a lot of synergy with the fans, as well as a great financial potential.” And he added: “Without a doubt, Europe is the best example for Brazil and South America.”