Ted Lasso - Real vs. Made Up Product Placement
Updated: May 8
By now if you have a steady internet connection and a $4.99 a month in loose change to spare, it is a safe bet to make that you have indulged in the wonderful creation that is Ted Lasso.
The hit series, starring Jason Sudeikis as an American football coach who has been hired to turnaround a fledging AFC Richmond team, has resonated with audiences far and wide. From soccer enthusiasts to the most casual of sports fans, the show has made believers out of even the most footballing purists. And with Season 2 set to premiere on July 23rd, social media is already buzzing with anticipation.
So what better timing than to break down sponsors that appear throughout the show. Soccer serves as a wonderful medium for integrating sponsors. Pitch signage, kit sponsorships, press backdrops, and player endorsements are many ways in which partnerships are forged. Within this sitcom, there are a mix of real brands that are incorporated within as well as many made up ones that offer a chance for the imagination to run wild.
*Note that for pretenses of this article, we will assume that "made up brands" are Official Club Sponsors. While they were never referenced as such directly within the show, the mix of assets that they appear on, coupled with the prominence and frequency that go hand-in-hand with that mix, run parallel to similar designations within real life sports
Nerdy sponsorship jargon aside, let's take a look at the more prominent sponsors within the show:
The most prominent made up sponsor throughout the first season, Dubai Air serves as the club's kit sponsor. The sponsor holds exclusivity rights to all of the club's kits as they equip Richmond's home, away, and training kits and do not compete with any other commercial sponsors on the uniform.
If you look at fellow English Premier League clubs, Middle Eastern airlines serve as a prominent kit sponsor category with Emirates and Etihad Airways outfitting Arsenal and Manchester City respectively.
The airline holds a mighty presence throughout the club's assets as they can be seen on the media backdrop and static stadium signage, including being affixed prominently in multiple locations of the coaches' technical area. There are even promotional messages intertwined within the pitch side digital LED with the brand promoting their "big seat discounts" during matches.
Here's an Easter Egg for you: Dubai Air is specifically inspired by one of the original NBC Sports' Ted Lasso shorts from 2014. Notice a trend:
Lasso: "In my mind you gotta have three things to be a Premier League team:
One: you gotta play phsyical.
Two: you gotta give 100% till the final whistle.
And three: you gotta be sponsored by a Middle Eastern airline"
It is no coincidence that Lasso reveals his new 8th grade team is sponsored by none other than Dubai Jet
We will see what Dubai Air's involvement with the club will be in Season 2. By the looks of the recent trailer, it is sure to be a lesser investment as fellow (made up) sponsor bantr has scooped up the sponsorship right's for the club's away kits.
Controversy?! Conflicting Product Placement Within Same Category
Within the show's pilot episode, the audience is introduced to a host of sponsors. During Ted Lasso's introductory press conference, a media backdrop is ever-present that displays the club's most prominent sponsors. One of the more visable ones is LACOman spray.
The deodorant is a context fixture within the first episode onward, showcasing its presence within additional media backdrops and prominently behind a goal at the team's training facility.
Makes sense right? You'd want to highlight a very important, albeit made up, partner through a multitude of assets.
Yet later in the pilot episode, while Coach Lasso is perusing the locker room, he stumbles upon a bottle of Lynx Body Spray. Consider the following dialogue exchange between Ted Lasso and Coach Beard:
Lasso: "I do love a locker room. It smells like potential...and am I getting notes of Axe Body Spray?"
Beard: "Spot on Coach. But I think they call it something else here."
Lasso: *spots Lynx Body spray* "Oh?"
*smells Lynx Body spray* "Ding ding ding."
Lasso: "Lynx: my favorite of the jungle cats."
The analogy is indeed true: AXE is to the United States as Lynx is to the United Kingdom. Owned by Unilever, the global brand has a prominent sponsored spot within the show. Though it is disguised by cheeky banter, it is clear that the product placement has been made to cut through the noise and jump out at the viewer.
While this is all well and good, it brings to mind a glaring question: why even have a competing, albeit made up, sponsor within the show at all?
There is a quick caveat to this question. Let's enter the world of literalness and technicalities for a moment: if LACOman spray is an Official Club Sponsor, Lynx's involvement doesn't necessarily breach any conflict in the real world. After all, a player's desire to use their own grooming products, particularly if they have an endorsement deal with said product, does not interfere with any Official Club Sponsor. Even if that sponsor has exclusivity, players themselves are *exempt from having to override their own personal preferences in favor of team affiliated sponsors (*I am not a legal savant by any stretch but this is a fundamental principles in nearly every Collective Bargaining Agreement in existence).
But this isn't real life. This is a sitcom. Essentially, that previous paragraph was deemed irrelevant because I again raise the question, this time with an important distinction at the end: why even have a competing, albeit made up, sponsor within the show at all when you don't have to?
Perhaps the inclusion of LACOman spray offers a bit more substance to a carousel of other made up sponsors. Perhaps the made up body spray primes the viewer for when a real life body spray makes a brief cameo. Either way, this mystery will remain just that: a mystery.
Real Product Placement Appearances:
The show boasts a large number of real product placement appearances. While most are brief, they are strategically parceled out to provide maximum exposure throughout the course of the first season.
Upon entering his new English abode, Lasso discovers a care package. International staples found include Walkers Pure Butter Shortbread and Marmite Yeast Extract.
While we are on the subject of food, why not start your day with one large piece of 100% Shredded Wheat!
It's a English Premier League squad. There's bound to be a sports car or two abound. And though their logos (Porsche, Aston Martin) are not incredibly clear, the mystery remains on if this is an official product placement or just a subtle flex.
Under Armour and North Face make an appearance. Are they technically seen as competitors? Both are in the apparel space. In these frames, both characters are sporting winter wear. Though not seen as direct competition, it is interesting on how both companies warrant consideration within the first season.
Finding the Right Pitch:
There are a few instances during home matches where imagination becomes reality. Where the blurred lines of sponsorship become a bit clearer if you do a bit of digging.
Upon first glance, three partners appear as if they have invested a sizable amount of advertising spend within this show to really help get their brand top-of-mind. They appear during every home match and have dramatically large signage. So much so that you wonder how much effort it took to affix it there in the first place.
Well wonder not. Turns out the three partners, Black & Decker, JD Sports, and Stanley, are actual partners of Crystal Palace F.C. For those who didn't know, Ted Lasso's AFC Richmond squad plays their home matches at Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park.
Below are side-by-side views of the sponsors' appearances in the show (left frame) and in real life (right frame):
Black & Decker:
Talk about added value for a few top partners!
Incredible Full-Scope Made Up Campaigns:
There are several made up sponsors throughout the season including a local restaurant (Shipley's Steakhouse), a fast food joint (Bernsteine's Burger), the U.K.'s version of IcyHot (Heat Care), high-end alcoholic spirits (Royal Hemsworth), sports apparel (Verani Sports), and the always-willing-to-sponsor financial establishment (Westways Bank).
Yet there are two made up sponsors that go above the rest. Both have integrated campaigns that have actually made their way into the writer's room, spurring whole scene changes and dialogue dedicated to these fake sponsors.
Darsteiner Brewing Company:
As the first season progresses, young phenom Jamie Tartt begins to leverage his star power on the field to parlay it into marketing deals off of it. This culminates into an endorsement deal with Darsteiner Brewing Company as he highlights their Pilsner beverage.
Think about the macros of this: the writers wrote a scene to announce the endorsement of a made up product. They actually took the time to do that. Incredible work.
Alright so this one takes a little bit of reference.
Remember when Keeley Jones, the (at the time of this for reference...so spoiler) current girlfriend of the aforementioned Jamie Tartt, asked Ted Lasso "would you be a lion or a panda?" The result: lion.
That was for a photo shoot commercial that Keeley ended up acting in, lion costume and all. That commercial: it was for Cofka Vodka.
Fast forward to later home matches, Cofka Vodka's integration can be seen within the club's pitch-side LED signage. My word, what integration and truly one heck of a callback.
This One Random Fruit:
Ted Lasso contains quite the plethora of sponsors. From the simple to the integrated, the very real to the very made up, there is a sponsor for many of the major sponsorship categories that one would see throughout the course of a real life soccer season. Here's to Season 2 serving up so many more brilliant takeaways!
Max Simpson contributes a variety of content to The Sponsorship Space, covering areas such as experiential marketing, activation analysis, and illustrating the "why" behind interesting partnerships.