Recommerce Reads - Love is in the air: sponsorship deals for the rise of resale

United Kingdom

For those readers familiar with our Recommerce Reads series, you will know that the second-hand industry is becoming part of the mainstream online consumer experience. The number of new entrants to this market is growing and operators are attracting investment, some of which is being deployed to boost marketing budgets and increase consumer awareness.

In recent years, exciting collaborations have emerged, with peer-to-peer resale platforms sponsoring TV shows, partnering with influencers and advertising on social media. There are exciting opportunities for retailers and platforms to raise brand awareness and for those looking to align more closely with sustainable businesses. A notable example is eBay’s partnership with ITV’s Love Island, where contestants wear preloved outfits curated from the platform. During the summer 2023 show, eBay reported a 335% increase in searches for preloved fashion. eBay has since signed brand partnerships with various contestants, creating “Pre-Loved Ambassadors” who promote the conversation on social media. Other prominent examples, outside of the fashion sector, include the sponsorship of the Sky Sports coverage of the Premier League by WeBuyAnyCar and several sponsorships by Cinch, including of the England cricket teams, the SPFL and Crystal Palace.

Sponsorship deals are a great way for recommerce operators to reach new audiences and develop their brand, but they require careful negotiation. In this Recommerce Reads instalment, we look at some of the issues to consider when embarking on a sponsorship arrangement. One area this instalment does not focus on is greenwashing – see our previous Recommerce Read on that important topic for more information.

Sponsored property: 

Sponsorship deals allow a brand to closely align itself with a particular event, property or piece of content, normally to the exclusion of its competitors, so it is important to clearly define exactly what is being sponsored. For example, with events, there may be multiple brands sponsoring different aspects, such as the main event, specific physical areas at the event and/or event-related materials. Being clear on exactly what is being sponsored influences other aspects of the deal, such as how, where, and for how long the brand can use or refer to the sponsored property, what level of exclusivity it enjoys and how much the sponsorship opportunity costs. For some properties (sports, for example), there is a general acceptance that there will be many sponsors in different categories. There may also be tiers (where there are limited numbers of prime sponsors that enjoy greater rights), or on the other side of the spectrum, a sole sponsor (such as for a TV show). A brand may also seek title sponsorship (which will generally elevate it above all other sponsors), and the parties will typically agree a “designation” as the approved phrase used to describe the partnership.


A large portion of the negotiation of any sponsorship arrangement will be spent agreeing the rights to be granted to the sponsor as well as any limitations on those rights, with a focus on protecting each party’s brand value. This typically involves negotiating the obligations on the sponsored property to promote the sponsor brand, and on the other hand, the right of the sponsor to use the sponsored property’s intellectual property to do its own promotions.  The parties may share brand guidelines to specify the approved reproduction requirements for each party’s intellectual property, and may include requirements on the sponsored property to make available talent to promote, and use their social media to promote, the brand. Approval processes are common, striking the right balance between extensive approvals to run promotions, compared to giving  another party free rein of the brand. The parties will also need to address ownership and use of any jointly created content – such as composite logos and promotional content intended for social media or viral campaigns.


Sponsors will want to know that their competitors will not be affiliated with the same event, property or content. For sponsors in the recommerce sector, they need to think about who their competitors are for these purposes – is it all retailers, or just those brands and platforms focussing on pre-loved goods? Is it a sub-set of second-hand sales, or all second-hand sales? Some platforms are agnostic as to the types of second-hand goods being sold, whereas others are very much focussed on a particular vertical – such as fashion. Are you in the luxury space or at a more mass market price point? Fashion retailers/platforms in the recommerce industry may want broad exclusivity to cover at least all fashion brands (producers, retailers, new, and second-hand) and potentially other more generic resale platforms too, that don’t just focus on fashion. Defining the parameters of this exclusivity is often one of the toughest parts of the discussion. Another consideration for recommerce sponsors is the possible conflict between second-hand selling and the primary sales by the same brands.


The fees derived from the sale of sponsorship opportunities are often key to the staging or production of the sponsored event, property or content. A selection of pre-determined sponsorship packages might be available for more established properties, with the fees set relative to the exposure that the sponsor will likely derive, the scope of rights they receive and the level of exclusivity. For other properties – for example a TV show – there may be just the one sponsor. It may be a more bespoke arrangement. Options for fees include agreeing a fixed fee, payment in instalments, payment in kind or variable cash payments over the course of the sponsorship dependent on agreed KPIs. However, given the sponsorship fee will likely be used to pay for the sponsored event, property or content in the first place, the sponsor’s ability to obtain reimbursement or a reduction in fees where audience or reach targets are not met could be limited. For that reason, it is important to set out any minimum expectations up front in the sponsorship agreement.


Sponsors are likely to want access to any high-profile individuals involved in the event, property or content that they are sponsoring, for marketing purposes and often including obligations to promote the brand on social media. The sponsorship agreement should clearly set out what can actually be delivered – with specific obligations being back-to-backed in the agreement with the talent themselves. Having associated talent involved in promotional or adjacent content can be extremely valuable to sponsors, but the owner of the event, property or content will need to be careful to not over-commit. Also, talent will be aware of the value of their personal endorsements and will not want the sponsorship of events, properties or content that they are involved in, cutting across those deals. A sponsor having access to centrally created materials featuring the talent might be an acceptable middle ground.


Sponsorship arrangements are clearly designed to drive brand awareness and positively impact brand equity and so partnerships need to be chosen thoughtfully and with an eye to any possible negative brand associations. Clauses designed to protect brand reputation will likely be heavily negotiated. A sponsor who is particularly concerned about sustainability might focus on commitments relating to environmental, social and governance matters, and compliance with conduct policies and ethics codes. The actions of key talent involved in the event, property or content will also be a consideration. Even with these carefully negotiated commitments, things can go wrong and a sponsor will want protection in case they do – such as an ability to take down any promotional material or remove its branding if something brand-damaging occurs, to terminate the arrangement in its entirety and/or to seek a refund of the sponsorship fee. The tricky part can be agreeing the circumstances in which these remedies apply - and the extent to which these provisions are mutual.


Assuming everything goes to plan though, a sponsor will likely want first dibs on sponsorship opportunities for future events, properties and content. They will not want to have contributed to the success of the sponsored product, only to find a competitor swoops in to pick up rights to the next instalment. Options are often not straightforward to draft in a watertight way, with sponsored properties generally wanting to retain freedom for future events.

Next steps

The recommerce sector offers a dynamic and exciting landscape for sponsorship opportunities, driven by the growing popularity of preloved fashion. By addressing the key issues discussed in this article, sponsors and recommerce operators can forge positive sponsorship arrangements that enhance brand visibility and drive media exposure for this important sector.

If you would like to discuss negotiating your commercial agreements in the recommerce sector further, please do not hesitate to contact one of our specialists.