Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc., the Canton, Mass.-based parent of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, has inked a multiyear agreement for the quick-service chains to be official sponsors of Liverpool Football Club, one of the oldest soccer teams in the English Premier League.

The trans-Atlantic marketing partnership, one of few in the U.S. restaurant industry, includes joint promotions between the sports team and the brands, digital and print advertising, and in-store appearances by players during preseason tours.

Liverpool FC has a loyal fan base not just in England but around the world, with more than 200 official supporters clubs in 62 countries, including the United States, Spain, Germany, Brazil, China, Japan, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Australia and South Africa.

“With 18 English Premier League titles and five European Cups, Liverpool FC is one of the world’s most renowned football clubs,” John Costello, Dunkin’ Brands’ president of global marketing and innovation, said in a statement, “so we’re very excited to partner with them as we continue to grow our two winning brands, Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, around the world. We look forward to working with Liverpool FC on a number of exciting marketing initiatives and engaging with football fans worldwide in the coming years through this partnership.”

Billy Hogan, chief commercial officer for Liverpool FC, added in a statement that the team was “delighted” to partner with Dunkin’ Brands.

“Dunkin’ Donuts will be our official coffee, tea and bakery provider, and Baskin-Robbins will be our official ice cream provider, and we welcome both to the LFC family,” Hogan said. “Fans across the globe will benefit from this partnership as Dunkin Brands looks to expand their business, bringing exciting partnership activation to new territories and ultimately helping to bring fans closer to the club no matter how far away from Anfield [Liverpool FC’s stadium] they live.”

Dunkin’ Brands’ partnership with Liverpool FC is an extension of the company’s marketing relationship with Fenway Sports Group, which in addition to owning the English soccer club also owns the Boston Red Sox, a longtime Dunkin’ Donuts partner.

While marketing tie-ins with foreign sports leagues are rare for American restaurant companies, they are not unprecedented.

Last July, Papa John’s International Inc. became the official pizza sponsor of The Football League, another league in the United Kingdom with 72 teams, some of which are promoted to the Premier League each year. The marketing effort will be led from Papa John’s headquarters in Louisville, Ky. The brand also has been the official pizza sponsor of the United States’ National Football League and its championship, the Super Bowl.

The relationship can work the other way as well, such as American-born basketball player Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets acting as a spokesman for KFC in China.

Dunkin’ Brands has nearly 11,000 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in 33 countries and another 7,250 Baskin-Robbins locations in nearly 50 countries. In 2013, Dunkin’ Brands opened 790 net new restaurants, including 415 locations outside the United States.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN