Top 5 Largest Shirt Sponsorships in Soccer

In soccer, except for at halftime, the game never stops. For professional soccer teams and their leagues, the pace of the game limits certain marketing opportunities. For example, most major sports leagues generate massive revenue from in-game commercial breaks, yet this revenue stream is not available to major soccer leagues. As a result, they are forced to look for other ways to generate advertising revenue. One popular and lucrative marketing option evolved literally on the player’s back; shirt sponsorships. For the world’s biggest teams, the right to put your logo on their shirt comes with a big financial price.

From the advertiser’s perspective, a shirt sponsorship is worth a hefty fee because of the non-stop marketing opportunity in every game the team plays, as well as the street-level marketing that happens when fans buy and wear their favorite club’s jersey. Shirt sponsorship deals for the world's biggest clubs come with a huge price tag and these are the world’s five biggest shirt sponsorship deals.

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5 Liverpool and Standard Chartered - Deal Worth $31 Million Per Year

On this list, Liverpool comes in 5th with a sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered worth $31 million per year. In 2010, Standard Chartered became Liverpool’s main shirt sponsor and in July 2013 the London-based bank, feeling that the sponsorship was a good investment, extended the deal through the 2015-2016 season.

At first glance, it might seem strange for a London-based bank to sponsor a team from Liverpool. However, Standard Chartered generates most of their business overseas in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, all soccer-crazed regions that have many Liverpool supporters. A perfect example of a business using a shirt sponsorship to connect with potential customers.

4 Real Madrid and Fly Emirates - Deal Worth $39 Million Per Year

The fourth most lucrative shirt sponsorship deal belongs to Real Madrid. In May 2013, Real Madrid signed a five-year, $39 million per year shirt deal with Fly Emirates that went into effect for the 2013-2014 season, replacing Bwin as the shirt sponsor for Los Blancos. Real Madrid is a true world-wide soccer powerhouse. Not only do they have a long history of success and great players, they have the reigning Ballon d’Or (the award given to the best player in the world) winner, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Over the years, the UAE-based airline has used sports sponsorships as a significant part of their marketing efforts. Worldwide, Fly Emirates sponsors professional teams in rugby, tennis, motors sports, sailing, horse racing, cricket, Australian-rules football and soccer. Their financial commitment to professional soccer teams is enormous, in addition to Real Madrid, they also sponsors major teams like Arsenal, Hamburg AV, Paris Saint-Germain, Olympiacos FC and AC Milan.

3 Bayern Munich and Deutsche Telekom - Deal Worth $40 Million Per Year

The reigning 2013 UEFA Champions League champions, Bayern Munich, have the third most lucrative shirt sponsorship agreement with a $40 million per year deal with Deutsche Telekom. The telecommunications giant provides cellular telephone service to over 140 million customers in 50 different countries. In Germany, Deutsche Telekom is a major sports sponsor that hopes to capitalize on the country’s love of soccer. In addition to Bayern Munich, the telecom giant also sponsors Germany’s national soccer team. In 2012, Deutsche Telekom extended their shirt sponsorship with Bayern Munich through 2017.

For a soccer team shirt sponsor, Bayern Munich is a dream club because no team is generating more international attention. Bayern Munich is poised to repeat as Bundesliga champions this season, they have a huge lead in the standings, and they are the favorites to repeat as UEFA Champions League champions. International success like this in the soccer world offers enormous payback to a sponsor, and Deutsche Telekom is surely benefiting from FC Bayern’s great success.

2 Barcelona and Qatar Airways - Deal Worth $45 Million Per Year

Barcelona is fortunate to have the second-largest annual shirt sponsorship deal. In 2010 they entered a $45 million annual agreement with Qatar Airways. A team steeped in tradition, Barcelona has always worn a blue and scarlet striped shirt. Their team’s rich history, and the presence of one of the game’s most popular players, Lionel Messi, have helped sell FC Barcelona shirts all over the world. The international recognition of the shirt is a major reason Qatar Airways is willing to enter into such a substantial sponsorship agreement.

Last summer, the agreement between FC Barcelona and Qatar Airways was extended through 2016. The agreement is anchored in the natural symmetry an international airline has with a soccer team that boasts more than 300 million fans around the world. Barcelona is currently in a tight race for the top spot in the Spanish League with the other perennial Spanish power, Real Madrid. Barcelona is also competing in the UEFA Champions League. For an international company like Qatar Airways, it is a huge bonus to have the team they are sponsoring playing in the Champions League. Except for the World Cup, Champions League games garner the most world-wide attention.

1 Manchester United and Chevrolet - Deal Worth $79.85 Million Per Year

Manchester United, the most successful team in Premier League history, is also the club with the most lucrative shirt sponsorship deal. For the 2014-2015 season, Chevrolet will be replacing Aon as Manchester United’s shirt sponsor for a record-breaking $559 million. The sponsorship deal is for seven years, averaging a little under $80 million per year.

Recently, the sponsorship agreement took a peculiar turn when General Motors (the corporation that owns Chevrolet) announced that the company will be removing Chevrolet from Europe in 2015. The news raises the question, why would the company pay $80 million a year to put the Chevy ‘bow tie’ logo on the front of a European soccer team while almost simultaneously removing the brand from Europe. Domestically, the sponsorship deal for Chevrolet is boosted by the  television rights agreement NBC Sports has with the Barclay’s Premier League games. The league is growing in popularity in the U.S., with ratings up 70% compared to last season.

When Manchester United starts playing with ‘Chevrolet’ on their shirts next season, the brand will undoubtedly be boosted by their association with arguably the most popular soccer team in the world. Although the team is struggling this season (by their standards), mired in 7th place in the Barclay’s Premier League, the Red Devils have announced that they will be very aggressively pursuing the world’s best players in an attempt to regain the position of the best team in the world.

An additional bonus for Chevrolet is the fact that the team just announced they will be coming to America, in the summer of 2014, to compete in the International Champions Cup against other world-powers: AC Milan, AS Roma, Internazionale, Liverpool, Manchester City, Olympiacos FC and Real Madrid.

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