THE news that PSV Eindhoven and Philips are parting company after more than 30 years’ shirt sponsorship represents the end of an era for the reigning Dutch champions. Philips and PSV have reaped mutual benefits from the partnership, indeed the club was formed as a sports unit of the electronics company in 1913. There’s no doubt that Philips have gained greater exposure from PSV’s exploits and even less debate that PSV would not have been as successful without the patronage of Philips.
Not all shirt sponsorships have the same effect, however. Last autumn, Aberfield Communications published a report that suggested English Premier League (EPL) shirt sponsors were not getting much value from their backing of the top clubs. In fact, they added that they are losing around £100m per year from the association, presumably in potential income.
Some deals have worked spectacularly well, but all too frequently, they fail to realise their potential. Samsung’s link with Chelsea was seen as an important factor in the global growth of the Korean company. Aberfield said that Samsung at Chelsea and Standard Chartered with Liverpool represent two of the most engaging examples of how shirt sponsorship can be truly effective. Less obvious, but nevertheless successful, examples can be found at Southampton (Veho, a UK electrical company) and Norwich City (Aviva – UK insurers).
But overall, does shirt sponsorship bring multiple benefits to the company concerned? If you look at the EPL, the deals are generous for the very top clubs. But it is noticeable there are not too many of the instantly recognisable names involved, which may be because the really viral brands may not feel the need for football.
Interestingly, now that Samsung and Chelsea have moved on, none of the world’s leading brands are present in the EPL. Of the current 20 shirt sponsorships, 35% come from the gambling sector, 25% banking and finance, 10% from Airlines and 10% from technology. The UK accounts for just 25% of the total, with Asia – ranging from Japan, Thailand and the Philippines – contributing some 40% and the Middle East and US 10% apiece.
The EPL is a big attraction for companies and investors in Asia, Middle East and United States. The United Arab Emirates is currently the biggest investor in European football, with EUR 163m spent on shirt sponsorship in 2015-16. Arsenal and Manchester City are both recipients of their generosity.
The three biggest global shirt deals involve English clubs, Manchester United topping the list with £53m over seven years with Chevrolet. Chelsea (Yokohama Rubber £40m) and Arsenal (Emirates £30m) make up a trio that account for over half of the EPL’s total. The lack of UK sponsorship has little to do with patriotic duty, it is more a symptom of the globalisation of corporate structures and the sale of UK companies to overseas investors. It also provides an indicator of the amount of liquidity in certain regions and the commitment of emerging market corporates and financial institutions to building global profile. What better way to reach a huge body of people than through one of the world’s genuine currencies – football?
Equally telling is that the UK contrasts dramatically from Germany, arguably the most well-run football league in Europe. While the UK has sold it soul itself to a large degree – “a league backed by foreign investment, foreign players and foreign coaches”- Deutschland AG certainly gets behind the Bundesliga. Across the league, 14 of the 18 clubs have German names on their shirts, including DAX members BMW, Deutsche Telekom, RWE, SAP and Volkswagen.
There’s also a big percentage of local support for Italy’s Serie A clubs, but not all of them went into 2015-16 with a shirt sponsor. Around 25% of the division was without a backer which was largely attributed to Italy’s economic decline. Surprisingly, Sassuolo secured the biggest deal with their EUR 22m from Mapei. The gulf between the EPL and Serie A is underlined by the overall total received from shirt agreements – the EPL amounts to EUR 287m, while Serie A totals EUR 91m.
You would be forgiven for assuming that La Liga’s giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona, have little trouble in securing lucrative deals for their shirts, and between them they receive over EUR 50m annually from Emirates and Qatar Airways respectively. But Barca have yet to announce the name of their new sponsor as the deal with Qatar finishes in June 2016 and there appears to be a degree of anxiety over the successor.
PSV Eindhoven’s arrangements with Philips are dwarfed by the EPL and La Liga clubs. The new sponsor, Energiedirect, has a similar deal. It is nice to see PSV mark the end of the Philips era with a specially commissioned set of heritage shirts. It’s an appropriate way to end one of the most durable, and notable, examples of shirt sponsorship in the game.