Inside Story: New season, new jersey

Will the thousands - and sometimes millions - lavished on football shirts be worth the sponsor's money? Richard Gillis looks at potential winners and losers
Click to follow
The Independent Online


The rich just got richer. As if Roman Abramovich's millions were not enough, Chelsea have signed up with the Korean electronics giant for five years, making it the UK's biggest ever football shirt sponsorship. Evidence that the club has joined Europe's élite, only Juventus (£15m) and Bayern Munich (£13.5m) make more per year.


The effectiveness of shirt sponsorship is notoriously difficult to quantify, leaving companies to rely on spurious claims of its equivalent media value to justify the outlay. Thomas Cook is among a new breed of sponsors looking for more concrete evidence. One example suggests City fans are four times more likely to go on holiday with the sponsor than followers of other clubs.


The challenge for Japanese printer manufacturer Oki is to surpass the impact made by their predecessors on the shirt, toy manufacturer Ty. In prompted recall research last season, Portsmouth's sponsor came bottom. Just 3 per cent of sports fans could recall Ty, compared to 51 percent who knew of Vodafone's tie-up with Manchester United.


The first rule of sports marketing is to keep winning. Having paid £790m for the club, Malcolm Glazer would have noted comments from Nike, United's £303m licensing partner, saying it would be 'a problem' were United not in the Champions' League. Vodafone remains 'committed to the club' in the aftermath of the Glazer takeover. But it said something similar about David Beckham after 'Loosgate'. His contract was terminated last month.


FlyBe is on the shirt for the second year, and the contract is dut to expire at the end of 2006 season. The club's Chairman, porn magnate David Sullivan, and his charismatic chief executive, Karren Brady have put together an enviable group of secondary sponsors including T-Mobile, Carlsberg and Primetime, a recruitment service, who value the club's large local following.


Since the excitement of the Keegan era the club has become a scandal magnet, synonymous with the worst excesses of top-flight football. They retain a loyal following, driving up television audience figures and with it the sponsorship value, but the days when they were every football fan's second-favourite team may well be over.


The logo on the shirt comes as part of the stadia naming rights agreement which sees the club play at the Reebok Stadium. One of the more successful naming rights agreements (three points for remembering the name of Bolton's old ground). It is a blueprint copied by Arsenal's move to new Emirates "branded" premises next year.

WIGAN - JJB (RETAILER): £350,000

This summer club chairman David Whelan stepped down from his day job as founder and chairman of sports retailer JJB Sports to spend more time with his true love, Wigan Athletic. Whelan has built a £290m personal fortune since buying a sports shop in the town 34 years ago. Earlier this year, JJB was voted 'chaviest shop in Britain' in an online fashion poll.


With Pepsi and McDonald's as commercial partners, the FA is under increasing pressure to cut its ties with the fast-food industry as part of the debate on childhood obesity. Refreshing, then, to note the Food Commission's praise of south London club Charlton's work with local schools in promoting good nutrition and physical exercise.


Last season was set to mark the end of Carlsberg's 13-year commitment to the Merseyside club, the longest commercial relationship in British football. But Champions' League success changed all that. A new deal was signed shortly before Liverpool's incredible comeback and victory in the European Cup final in Istanbul in May, which saw ITV1 viewer numbers peak at over 14m.


This is the last season that the O2 logo will appear on the Arsenal shirt, having been outbid by Emirates. The airline moves across London from Chelsea to become shirt and stadium naming-rights sponsor in a £90m deal. The shirt is valued at £5m a year as part of the deal.

FULHAM - PIPEX (ISP): £900,000

The two-year deal will also put the internet service provider's logo on the roof of Craven Cottage, which is under the Heathrow flight path. Pipex is Fulham's fourth shirt sponsor since 2001 and is sure to be more popular than Pizza Hut, whose presence made a dent in shirt sales.


A sponsorship which highlights the plight of the Premiership's yo-yo clubs. The drop in exposure caused by relegation means clubs like West Ham find it difficult to build longer term relationships with sponsors and must rely on low value one-year deals.


Sports-related tourism is one of the sector's biggest growth areas. The Lions tour, the Athens Olympics and Euro 2004 in Portugal are all recent examples of sport driving sales in the holiday business. However, given the club's recent abysmal record in Europe, quite where Spurs fans come into this is less clear.

MIDDLESBROUGH - 888.COM: £500,000

Cassava Enterprises, the parent company of, is using the Middlesbrough shirt to generate exposure for its online poker business. Cassava's rival, PartyGaming, recently listed on the London Stock Exchange for £5bn - the biggest IPO in London since Orange floated in 2001 and Betfair is thought to be following suit with a £700m launch.


"Once a Villan, always a Villan" is the strapline for Aston Villa's new marketing offensive. The Midlands club is taking the unusual step of launching an advertising campaign to promote season tickets for 2005/06. The campaign goes live across the West Midlands and features team manager David O'Leary.


Recent research suggested that a relegation dogfight raises the profile of the sponsor. This is not much consolation for the fans in what might be a tough season. Based in Sunderland, car dealership chain Reg Vardy is Renault's largest independent retail partner in the UK.


The Premier League's rules ensure an even share of television coverage over the year. Despite this, clubs such as Rovers struggle to sell their shirt. An alternative approach may be to pool resources with other financially strapped clubs and sell them collectively to one brand.


The Midlands club avoided the drop in the last few minutes of the final game of last season. They are rewarded with a renewed deal with the telecom company T-Mobile, which has bought up a number of other secondary deals around the Premiership as a way of buying content for its 3G network. An example of a local company supporting its home-town team, the company has a large call centre close to the Hawthorns ground.


The Thai beer company recently renewed its relationship with the club for a further three years despite a limited UK presence. The deal is testament to the Premiership's international audience across 195 countries. Everton recently played in the Asia Premiership Cup in Thailand and funds have also gone towards the construction of Everton-Chang village near Phuket, in the aftermath of last year's tsunami.