From famous players partnering with SMEs to clubs gifting their shirt sponsorship to charities, rights-holders have deployed innovative community initiatives to help local businesses throughout the pandemic.

Our key focus at Eleven has always been connecting business communities with their local football team. As we’ve grown, so has our ability to deepen those ties, and develop new ways for businesses to benefit from an association with their local sporting rights-holder. This took on an increased urgency when the pandemic hit, with thousands of local businesses struggling to battle through.

Clubs and rights-holders took immediate action. Despite facing their own financial pressures, many clubs put their local communities at the heart of their response to the pandemic, offering support to those who needed – and continue to need – it the most.

Here we celebrate some of the many brilliant initiatives.

New York City FC x Mastercard New York City FC gave back to their local business community through a groundbreaking Mastercard City Assist Contest. Sol Cacao, a small Bronx-based chocolate company, won a competition to become the first Official Small Business of NYCFC. Sol Cacao had its logo on NYCFC’s sleeves, as well as digital exposure on matchdays at the iconic Yankee Stadium and across social.

Liverpool FC x Vista Vista and Liverpool recently joined forces to support SMEs across the city. As Liverpool’s Official Small Business Design & Marketing partner, Vista is celebrating small businesses across the local community and offering them an opportunity to see their name in lights at Anfield through in-stadium activation, as well as social content.

Chelsea FC Chelsea’s Proud of London campaign put the club’s community at its heart, supporting local businesses recovering from the pandemic. Chelsea opened up its social channels to SMEs with London postcodes, allowing them free advertising space on matchdays, and exposure to hundreds of millions of people.

Arsenal FC Arsenal leveraged star names from their men’s and women’s teams to help local businesses in London’s N5 and N7 postcodes. Local businesses were partnered with players to raise awareness of their brands, and they also received space across Arsenal’s social channels as well as on the big screens at the Emirates.

Huddersfield Town AFC In the midst of the pandemic, Huddersfield Town announced a fantastic shirt sponsorship initiative. The club gave three local charities and a series of local businesses pride of place on the front of Huddersfield’s shirts, skyrocketing exposure for the brands and organisations.

Northampton Town FC To celebrate the club’s 125th anniversary, the Cobblers released a chocolate and blue shirt for a one-off league match, which will also be Northampton’s third shirt for next season. In a wonderful touch that celebrated the generosity of fans, the names of supporters who waived their season ticket refund are embroidered onto the shirt.

EFL x eBay Like Eleven, eBay understands the importance of small businesses, and that they represent the heartbeat of the community. Its Small Businesses United campaign, in partnership with the EFL, connected 140 businesses with their local clubs across the football league. As well as that, eBay also partnered with 72 grassroots clubs and local companies, giving the brand pride of place on the clubs’ shirts.

Cadbury Cadbury partnered with 20 clubs across the UK, from grassroots sides such as Grenfell Athletic right through to the likes of Celtic and Manchester United. One of the UK’s most-loved brands, Cadbury’s partnerships supported local communities and small businesses owners throughout lockdown, as well as fans who had lost their jobs.