One of my favourite trivia questions is “Why does every football club in the world have to thank Kettering Town?” The answer is that they challenged the world of amateurish football administration back in 1976 when they dared to put the first ever sponsorship logo on the fronts of their shirts. Kettering Tyres were the company and the FA came down on the club like a ton of bricks at such heathen activity (read more here). Thirty five years later and you are treated like a boy with a free milk token at school if you do not have a name on the front of your shirt.
It’s that time of the year again where football clubs try and out-do each other with new shirt sponsorship deals. Their view, backed up by very high paid commercial consultants, is that their team’s football shirt is the best and most effective advertising billboard in the world. After all, how often are the shirts seen on TV or in the press? Their view is that you can get more effective advertising than you could than buying a slot on TV.
To an extent this is true. How much exposure do you think Unicef have received in the past two years from being on the front of Barcelona’s shirt? Not a day goes by without column inches being filled with praise for the Catalans, accompanied normally by a picture featuring Messi or Xavi with the Unicef logo on. That is all very well and good but on the flip side it is hard for them to control things when they go wrong. How much brand damage is done by showing repeats of a horror tackle like Taylor’s for Birmingham City on Arsenal’s Eduardo for sponsors F&C Investments?
Anyway, like the rest of football, shirt sponsorship deals shows no signs of living in the real world. Ten years ago Birmingham City announced a £3m deal with Phones 4 U. Peanuts really when Man Utd announced that their £30m deal with Vodafone would be extended for four more years. But how does that stack up today? Below are the current top ten deals (at the moment) in world football.
1. Barcelona – No real surprise that finally the club have agreed to actually have a paid sponsor after all these years of success. As of 2011/12 they will sport the logo of the Qatari Foundation on the front of their shirts for a cool $40.9m per annum in a five year deal. More money than sense.
2. Bayern Munich – Surprisingly eclipsing the Premier League teams, Bayern have continued to stick with a “local” brand in Deutsch Telekom aka T-Home. The deal worth $35.7m per annum surprises most as the brand is hardly recognised outside of Germany in this guise. Deutsch Telekom are the parent of T-Mobile.
3. Liverpool – You have to give some credit to the previous American owners of Liverpool when they managed to get a South African bank with little presence in Europe to take out a deal worth three times as much as the previous one (with brewer Carlsberg) in the biggest period of banking disdain known to man.
4. Manchester United – The reds swapped one American company nobody had heard of in the rest of the world for another when previous sponsors AIG went into meltdown three years ago. AON are a Chicago re-insurer apparently who pay United £32.75m per annum. Amazing what Wikipedia can tell you these days that a brand cannot.
5. Real Madrid – Who says that the bottom has fallen out of the online gambling market? Certainly not Real Madrid as they make a cool $29m per annum from the deal with Bwin.com who used to sponsor AC Milan as well. They will be eyeing the Barcelona deal with some envy.
6. AC Milan – The famous red and black stripes have sported a variety of names over the past few years but now they seem to have fallen into bed with Fly Emirates who also have deals with Paris Saint-Germain, Hamburg and Arsenal. The current deal is worth $20.5m to the Milanese.
7. Tottenham Hotspur – This is a strange one. They have a joint sponsorship deal. Autonomy, the software company sponsor the Premier League shirt, whilst Investec financial services have the rights on the cup games. The deal is worth $20.4m but it doesn’t sit well with many fans who see it as the club again trying to abuse the supporters goodwill with potentially 6 different shirts available to buy.
8. Chelsea – At last someone who we have heard of, and actually a product I use. Samsung pay less than 50% of United’s shirt deal but potentially get almost as much exposure. A great deal for the electronics company although you do feel when this comes up for renegotiation they will be looking for a lot more.
9. Manchester City – A new boy on the list in recent years and it is no surprise that their deal with Etihad Airways is linked back to the ownership of the club by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (that would cost a small fortune to print on the back of his replica shirt). The current deal is worth $12.3m although technically as the airline is also owned by the same family as the club it hardly matters.
10. Juventus – The once major force in European football is still struggling to get on its feet in a financial opportunity sense. Issues around the implication in the Calciopoli scandal and the lack of their own home ground have been a major burden on the club. However the current deal with French online betting company BetClic is worth $10.9m.
One interesting point to note here. There is not one shirt from France in the top ten, or even twenty. One of the reasons behind that is that betting and alcohol cannot be advertised on TV in France (an issue that Liverpool used to face when playing in European ties there with their Carlsberg logo) and it tends to be these companies who would spend around $5-$10m a year on a shirt deal.
Finally, spare a thought for poor old Colorado Rapids. The current MLS Champions, and owned by the wannabe owner of Arsenal, Stan Kroenke, did not have a sponsor for the whole of last season. MLS rules stipulate that only deals worth $500,000 per annum or more can be accepted and no-one came forward. With the LA Galaxy getting between $3 and $5m from their deal with Herbalife (bets on whether they will be renewed once Beckham officially gives up rather than pretending to take it seriously as he does at the moment) there must be someone out there with a spare $1m or so!
Are any of these figures surprising? We don’t think so. In fact the only constant you have here is that the sums of money will just keep on rising and rising. Madness.