How do Footballers get Sponsored? | Football Sponsorships
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How Footballers Get Sponsored? – Football Sponsorships

The world of football is rife with football sponsorships everywhere you look. From competitions to stadiums to shirt sponsors, clubs are partners with multiple brands. However, players themselves also have their individual sponsorship deals. In fact, for the top four sportswear brands; Adidas, Nike, Puma and Under Armour, 60% of their sponsorship deals are with footballers.

When you think of the best players in the world, like Ronaldo and Messi. You’ll immediately associate them with their brands. The two most notable football sponsorships is Cristiano Ronaldo’s lifetime deal with Nike, worth over $1 billion. And Lionel Messi’s sponsorship with Adidas, which is also a lifetime deal, earning him $12 million per year.  

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Boot Deals

Firstly, the most common type of football sponsorships are boot deals. For players, boots are important for comfort as well as performance. Boots are now designed to complement certain football attributes such as pace, touch or passing accuracy. Thus wearing the right boot, and working with the right sponsor, is an important consideration for players.

Obviously, players have to wear the kit of their team. So the boots are the one piece of kit on display during a match that can show individuality and personal taste. Which is why brands battle to sponsor elite players and ensure they exclusively wear their brand and model their new releases in matches.  

For many footballers, boot deals include agreeing to wear the brands boots for all training and matches. And sometimes include exclusivity of all sports and gym wear. The players would receive a constant supply of new boots and training wear as part of the deal. James Milner revealed in his book ‘How to be a Footballer’ that as part of his sponsorship with Nike. He could request custom built boots to suit his comfort preferences.  

How do Footballers first get Sponsored? 

Well, if you were just starting out in the game, you could wear whatever boots you felt most comfortable in. Players would likely be encouraged or offered to wear the brand of boots that sponsor the club they play for. As the club would have a supply and a deal for all kit. Once players become established and well-known in the game, brands would likely approach the player’s agent to strike a deal.

Brands such as Nike and Adidas have dedicated talent spotters and recruitment plans to find young talent to sign them up on long-term sponsorship deals before their competitors. For example, Nike have a sponsorship deal with legend Patrick Kluivert’s youngest son. Who is playing for PSG’s youth team at just 9 years old! These ‘Young Athlete’ contracts are investments in the future. As Nike would hope they are partnering with the future global superstars.  

For the Elite Players

These type of football sponsorships are often a lot more than just boots and training gear. When you’re a global superstar. You may have seen Messi, Ronaldo, Pogba or Salah in TV adverts for certain brands, and this is usually part of the deal for an ambassadorial role. This kind of football sponsorships would include promotional appearances, social media work, photo-shoots, ads, as well as using a wide variety of products such as bags, watches, accessories, and even toiletries and aftershaves.

It’s not that the player would have to actively promote all of these products, but the deal would prevent the player signing any other sponsorship deal with any other brand who want the player to promote these products.  

It would be the role of the players agent and lawyer to negotiate these deals, ensuring that such an all-encompassing boot sponsorship from the giant brands like Nike, Adidas and Puma is not detrimental to the earning potential of the player. This is because for the global superstars in football, the offers for sponsorships come from far and wide, involving pretty much any product.

For most professional players, a boot deal is the only type of sponsor they have. Those with a slightly higher profile or social media following may ambassadorial roles with football or sport related brands, such as nutritional brands, or EA Sports, in which they represent the FIFA video game. But it is the elite players that attract sponsorships from all kinds of global brands. An example is Lionel Messi. He has had sponsorship and endorsement deals with companies such as Mastercard, Turkish Airlines and Pepsi. In recent years, the elite footballers have become as popular as traditional celebrities, meaning endorsements from them have become very valuable to global brands.   

How do Football Sponsorships make so much Money for the Player? 

Essentially it is all concerned with exposure. The more games they play on TV, and the profile of those games is the priority for the brand. That’s why the football sponsorships are full of performance related bonuses. The highest paying deals are only given to players who play for the ‘category 1 clubs’, which would be teams like Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus, and Bayern. The player would have to play over 70% of competitive games and ensure they are consistently picked for the national team to receive their bonuses.

Even the performance of the club affects the player’s income, even though it isn’t directly in their control. For example, Tottenham missed out on Champions League football this year, meaning it is likely that Harry Kane missed out on income from his Nike deal. Alternatively, winning the Champions League or World Cup would provide a healthy bonus to a player from their sponsor.

player shoes

Social Media Ads

However, these days exposure doesn’t just come from being seen on the football pitch, playing in the sport’s biggest games. Social media is now the predominant media for advertisements and promotions, and the most popular football players are making money from their followings. Cristiano Ronaldo has 238m followers on Instagram, so there’s no wonder his sponsorship deals include social media posts. It is reported that he can earn $1 million for a single post, such as ones promoting his partnered brand, Clear Shampoo.  

What about the Money they make for their Sponsors?

Well, the interesting thing about Messi and Ronaldo is that the kits they wear for their club are not the same as the brands they are ambassadors for. In fact, while he has a lifetime contract with Adidas, Messi actually generated an estimated $111 million revenue for Nike in 2017-18, due to social media exposure in his Barcelona kit as well as in Barcelona shirt sales.

For the two companies, promoting their key assets in Messi and Ronaldo is complicated, considering that they would want to avoid images of their star in their competitors kit. As such, brand consistency is a very valuable thing for the football sponsors. For example, Mbappe is a Nike athlete who also represents Nike for PSG and France. This means he can become a complete icon for the brand.

Image Rights

Where there are multiple brands involved, football sponsorships can become complicated, particularly when considering image rights. High profile players are usually signed to an image rights company in which they are majority shareholdersThe company owns the players entire image – look, name, nickname, voice, endorsement and so on. This company enters a contract with the club and also usually deals with boot deals and other sponsorships.  

If the football club wants to use the player to promote their other commercial sponsors then deals must be struck with the image rights company. There can be conflicts of interest where the player could have personal sponsorships that are competitors to some of the club’s partners. Clubs will often restrict their players from making deals with such companies. However, this can be difficult for players transferring who may have existing deals with, say, Mercedes, but their new club has Audi as their shirt sponsor.

This makes contract agreements between image rights companies and football clubs complicated, which can delay things, and often involve the club paying compensation for the player to drop or limit their sponsor opportunities. Elite clubs can have more than 60 commercial partners, so the chance of conflicts with player endorsements is pretty high. It was reported that Tottenham failed to sign Dybala on transfer deadline day in a large part due to the delays caused by image rights issues that could not be resolved in time.  

Conclusion

Overall, football sponsorships are now such a big part of a footballer’s life. There is certainly more personality, individuality and charisma in players in the modern game, and of course social media has played a big part in increasing footballers’ popularity.

Pogba, Neymar, Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo are the most marketable footballers in the game and can add significant value to brands. Who knows what the future holds for football sponsorships, but it is likely you will see more of the elite players on TV ads, billboards and Instagram.

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