The relationship between major brands and football is now firmly established. Brands crave the exposure that being associated with a major football club, player, competition or organizations can bring, and everyone in the latter group either wants or needs the money that brands will pay to sponsor them. Because there’s big money and long numbers involved.
For example, Manchester United’s current shirt sponsorship deal is worth tens of millions of pounds, while Arsenal’s combined stadium naming rights and shirt sponsorship deal has nine figures. So whether you like the idea of football sponsorship or not, it’s now integral to modern football. You can complain, but things are not going to change any time soon. In fact the only change likely is that the money involved will keep getting bigger.
So, who are the biggest sponsors of soccer? Below you’ll find a list of 17 biggest football sponsors, and a brief explanation of how they’re involved with the beautiful game.
- Coca-Cola – Has had stadium advertising at every World Cup since 1950 and has been an official World Cup partner since 1978. Coca-Cola’s World Cup 2010 campaign had a presence in 170 countries and that sponsorship deal was recently re-carbonated until 2022. Coca-Cola also has a long-term deal with UEFA, and will be an official UEFA partner for Euro 2012 and Euro 2016.
- Nike – Manufactures kits for the world’s biggest clubs, like Manchester United and Barcelona, and famous national teams like Brazil. Nike’s boots and other football gear are also endorsed by world famous players like Cristiano Ronaldo. Nike has never been an official World Cup sponsor, but it’s easy to forget that when the swoosh people roll out zeitgeisty advertising campaigns like Write the Future every four years.
- McDonald’s – The fast food giant can afford to copy Coca-Cola’s approach and be long term sponsors of both the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championship. In addition, McDonald’s also sponsors the English Football Association’s grassroots coaching efforts.
- Adidas – The jewel in the adidas marketing crown is their status as Official Licensee and Supplier of the FIFA World Cup. The German company has supplied the match balls for every World Cup since 1970, and has similar agreements with UEFA for the European Championships and Champions League. Adidas also manufactures kits for world famous teams like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and AC Milan, and for many national teams too – most famously Germany. Adidas’ boots and other football apparel are endorsed by celebrity players like David Beckham and Lionel Messi.
- Barclays – Barclays Banks has been the Premier League sponsor since 2001. The current deal runs from the 2010/11 season to the end of the 2012/13 season, and sees Barclays pay the league £82.25m for naming rights. The sponsorship deal is global, allowing Barclays to benefit from the Premier League’s worldwide appeal.
- Anheuser-Busch InBev – The Belgian beer company owns the Budweiser brand, which is a long-standing the Official Beer of the FIFA World Cup. Since Anheuser-Busch InBev acquired Budweiser, it has replaced Budweiser as the alcoholic beverage partners of both the Premier League and Major League Soccer.
- PUMA – Heavily involved in African football, PUMA sponsors 12 CAF nations and manufactures kits for teams such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast, as well as European club teams like Bordeaux and is a major sponsor of the Women’s Professional Soccer League in the USA. PUMA is endorsed by Samuel Eto’o and others, but the roster of names is not as upscale as endorsements enjoyed by rivals Nike and adidas.
- Aon – The financial services firm paid a record fee of £80m to be Manchester United’s shirt sponsor from 2010 until 2014.
- VISA – The credit card company is the official financial services partner of the FIFA World Cup, after outbidding rivals Mastercard for FIFA’s favour by paying a reported $150m for the 2010 and 2014 tournaments.
- Pepsi – Pepsi is endorsed by players like Thierry Henry, Leo Messi, Frank Lampard, Kaka and Didier Drogba. Their relationship with David Beckham is no more, but Becks endorsed the soft drink from 1998 to 2008, appearing in a variety of Pepsi commercials. Pepsi is the official soft drink of Major League Soccer and the US Soccer Federation.
- Samsung – The electronics company has been Chelsea’s shirt sponsor since 2005, and that agreement lasts at least until 2013. Samsung also sponsored the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola and will sponsor the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
- Carlsberg – The Danish beer brewer specializes in long-term shirt sponsorship. Carlsberg’s name was on every Liverpool shirt from 1992 to 2010 (but no more) and has adorned FC Copenhagen’s shirts since 1999. Carlsberg is also a long-term sponsor of the UEFA European Championship, from Euro ‘88 until at least Euro 2012.
- Volkswagen – The German car-maker 100% owns top-flight German team VfL Wolfsburg, and so acts as Wolfsburg’s shirt sponsor as well as having naming rights on Wolfsburg’s home stadium. Volkswagen is also the official car of Major League Soccer and the shirt sponsor of DC United.
- Mastercard – The credit card card company was not happy at losing its status as World Cup finanical services partner to VISA, but has recently struck a similar deal with the Saudi Premier League.
- Bwin – The Austrian betting company has been the shirt sponsor of Real Madrid since 2007, and that deal continues until at least 2013. The company also has a history of integrating its name into football leagues that it sponsors. The deal with the Portuguese Liga saw the top flight renamed the BWINLIGA from 2006 to 2008, and a recent deal with Italy’s second division will see Serie B renamed Serie bwin for two seasons in a $10m deal.
- Emirates – The United Arab Emirates airline is an official World Cup partner, with a deal that began at the 2006 World Cup and currently runs until the 2014 World Cup. Emirates current £100m deal with Arsenal included naming rights to The Gunners’ new stadium (now known as Emirates Stadium) until 2022 and shirt sponsorship until 2015. Emirates is also the shirt sponsor of Milan, Hamburg and Paris St. Germain.
- Red Bull – The Austrian energy drink makers take a more direct approach. It bought SV Austria Salzburg in 2005 and renamed the club Red Bull Salzburg. In 2006, Red Bull did the same with MLS’ New York/New Jersey Metrostars, renaming the team as the New York Red Bulls. Red Bull built new stadiums for both teams, which are both known as Red Bull Arena. Red Bull also bought 49% of German team SSV Markranstädt in 2009 and rebranded the club as RB Leipzig, and in 2007 formed an entirely new team in Campinas, Brazil named Red Bull Brasil, which currently competes in the São Paulo state championship.