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Shirt Sponsorships – who said there was no money in football today?



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Is it any wonder that we are about to see the silly season of transfer deals recommencing, with sums changing hands more than the total GDP in some countries, when massive amounts of cash is flowing into the game in other areas. Take shirt sponsorship as an example.

Traditionally teams would be prepared to sell their prime retail space to a local tradesman or business for no more than a few thousand pounds. In fact the first ever Shirt Sponsorship deal didn’t involve Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal but in fact Kettering Town.

The superstars of modern football who earn some of their megabucks from these huge sponsorship deals should every year send a magnum of champagne to Kettering Town, for it was them under the guidance of Derek Dougan who brokered the first ever shirt sponsorship deal back in 1976. During the seventies football revenue came solely from the central pool, with a little bit of perimeter board advertising thrown in for good measure.

The shirt that started the billion pound ball rolling

The shirt that started the billion pound ball rolling

Dougan was a forward thinker and saw an opportunity to bring some more money in for the club. He did a deal with local company Kettering Tyres, and for their Southern League game against Bath City the team ran onto the pitch sporting the words “Kettering Tyres” (See left) on their chests.

The stuffy old Football Association went mad and ordered the club to remove the blatent advertising. Dougan simply removed the world Tyres but left a large “T”, claiming it stood for Town. The FA still insisted this was illegal and threatened the club with a £1,000 fine and they relented. However, just over a year later the Football Association changed the rules and opened the door to shirt sponsorship as we know it today.

Liverpool New Shirt - probablyAs of the start of 2010/11 season, the traditional Top 4 in the English Premier League will be earning close to £58m PER ANNUM just for selling the space on their shirts.

Leading the silly money stakes are surprisingly in times of a global banking crisis, a bank. Not just any old bank but one that has run into major issues with the sub-prime market in the US. Step forward Standard Chartered Bank who are taking over the Liverpool FC shirt sponsorship from Carlsberg at Anfield. They feel that an investment of £20.25 million per annum on a four year contract is worthwhile.

For a club who are on the verge of losing their spot in the top four this is a massive risk. And we wonder why we are still in the deepest financial crisis in history.

The top 25 deals in the World in 2009/10 equate to over £225million per annum flowing into football. If we look at which leagues get the share it looks like:-

English Premier League – £75m (flowing to just 7 clubs)Dortmund
German Bundesliga – £90m (10 clubs)
Spanish La Liga – £16.7m( only 1 club in the top 25 and that is Real Madrid)
Italy’s Serie A – £31m (4 clubs)
France’s Ligue Un – £14m (3 clubs)

LeverkusenThe Spanish situation is the most surprising – only Real Madrid attract a sponsorship deal worth more than £2.5m per annum. The other surprise is the mix of clubs from England. In the top 25 we only have 7 clubs – aside from the “Top 4” there is Man City, Spurs and Fulham. No Aston Villa, Newcastle United, West Ham United, Everton or Sunderland. Could that be because they are still in their old deals? Not in the case of West Ham or Sunderland that is for sure.

Surely the one sector that needs to take a long hard look at itself is the Online Gambling one….BWin, the Austrian gaming company weren’t satisfied with one top European side to sponsor so they signed up 3! Real Madrid (£16.7m for 3 years), Bayern Munich (£16.6m for a further 2 years) and AC Milan (£10m pa for 2 years) have all been sporting their logo recently – but surely one online company cannot produce revenues that justify a commitment of over £100m in the next three years.

Emirates aren’t exactly far behind either spending £5.5m per annum until 2012 with Hamburg, £5m with Arsenal and £3.6m for another 5 years with Paris Saint-Germain – meaning a commitment of over £60m.

Madness, sheer madness…..and as a final point and WITHOUT cheating by using Uncle Google can you name the sponsors of the following 5 clubs all of whom appear in the top 25 AND the 5 clubs from the sponsors name? Answers on a postcard of course or by clicking here

Sponsors Name…

1. Juventus are sponsored by this company for another season for £10.1m. Clue – It’s not Old Dutch

2. Schalke have already spent their £16.6m this season they get from this company. Clue – Paul Gascoigne’s graduation party?

3. Inter Milan are years into this £5.5m per annum deal. Clue – I bet they get as many calendars as they want

4. Werder Bremen have been passing go and collecting £7.3m for the past few seasons. Clue – You can’t miss their building if you fly into City Airport.

5. Man Utd will get £20m per season until 2013 for this new deal. Clue – A is not off

Easy eh? So how about these?

1. Evonik pay £7m per season to sponsor which German team? Clue – they have a real Kop

2. Volkswagon like to keep it close by sponsoring this team who debuted in the Champions League this year? – Clue – Lupo

3. Wind are a big noise in Italy but who do they spend £5.5m per annum on? Clue – Eternally yours

4. Etihad are an airline but who did they fly into sponsor this season contributing £5m per season in the process? Clue – like they really need the cash!

5. Fraport is one of the biggest transport hubs in the world so why do they need to spend £5m per annum advertising the fact? Clue – Hot dogs all round

VillaIf you can answer these without cheating and get more than 5 then you are an expert or a sucker for sponsorship.

But there are the good guys. Those clubs who want to put things back into the local community or a charity. These are very rare these days but there are two notable examples – FC Barcelona who still pay to have the Unicef logo on their shirts, and Aston Villa who sport the logo to Acorns, a local hospice.. I am still not convinced.

Thanks to World Soccer Magazine for providing the above financial information and Colours of Football for the graphics.

Also See:

Football Advertising
Premier League Sponsors
English Championship Club Sponsors
English League One Club Sponsors
English League Two Club Sponsors

This article was written by Stuart Fuller, author of The Ball Is Round.

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Ahmed Bilal created Sportslens in 2006. He is a business consultant and entrepreneur who helps businesses identify and overcome their biggest challenges. He’s also the founder of Football Media, an online advertising agency that specialises in sports and male audience targeting, with a monthly reach of 100m+ sports fans in the UK and US. He’s also the previous owner of Soccerlens.com – a sports news site that reaches 3m+ readers / month.