Sport and sponsorship
Sponsorship has been around since the ancient Greek and Roman times, with members of the higher-classes sponsoring sporting events to demonstrate a city's prestige and their own social standing.
Due to sport’s captivating and engaging nature, combined with ingenuity and understanding from sponsoring brands, several different forms of sponsorship have developed throughout sporting history.
Despite most sponsorships in sport boasting strong benefits for both the sporting organisations and the sponsoring brands, few have seen such successes as football clubs’ front-of-shirt sponsorships.
In this insight, we explore the relationship between football clubs and their front-of-shirt sponsors and how brands have reaped the rewards from their insightful investments.
Samsung and Chelsea
Leading the way both on the pitch and in the electronics consumer market, Chelsea and Samsung are two heavyweights in their respective industries, and are two of the most recognisable brands in the world.
But this hasn’t always been the case. Throughout the latter decades of the last century, Samsung were the world leaders in manufacturing computer chips. As they entered the 2000s, the Korean company set higher aims than ever before, as they sought to become the world's largest manufacturer of consumer electronics.
Looking to materialise this vision, Samsung became the official sponsor of Chelsea in 2005. Taking on new owners in 2003, Chelsea, similarly to Samsung, were also in a period of great transformation and were aiming for the top of their industry.
The following ten years saw the pair venture on a remarkable journey of success as Chelsea won 15 major honours, including the famous UEFA Champions League title in 2012 and Samsung became the #1 seller of electronics in the world.
Since separating in 2015, the pair have utilised the strong foundations that their enviable partnership forged, as both brands have continued to grow, with Samsung ranked in the top five best global brands in the world and Chelsea continuing their success with yet more major trophies - a true testament to the power of sponsorships.
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AIA and Tottenham
A club known for making shrewd business decisions, Tottenham have understood the importance of shirt sponsorships for a long-time.
With the aim of helping brands reach more precise target audiences, Tottenham became the first team in the English Premier League to distinguish between the shirt-sponsors for their league games and their cup games.
In 2013, life insurance company AIA teamed up with Tottenham as their Official Cup Shirt Partner before quickly wanting to expand the relationship ahead of the 2014/15 season with the Honk Kong-based firm becoming the club’s Official Shirt Partner for all club games.
Making use of Tottenham and the Premier League’s enormous popularity across key Asian markets, AIA have rapidly grown their brand, with Statista ranking AIA as the world’s largest life insurance company in 2022.
AIA’s partnership with ‘Spurs’ has seen financial as well as brand benefits for both parties, as the pair signed a new eight-year shirt sponsorship deal in 2019 worth a reported £40-a-year - a landmark deal for the club. AIA have also seen their revenues rise from $20.4b (2013) to $45.2b (2022) within the first 10 years of the partnership.
Although financial and brand benefits are crucial to both the club and sponsor in most shirt-sponsorship deals, ‘Spurs’ and AIA’s work outside of the business realm has also been key to the long-term partnership.
AIA have harnessed Tottenham’s connection to sport and healthy living through delivering their brand promise of helping people to live Healthier, Longer, Better Lives - delivering community coaching programmes to more than 40,000 children and young people.
Standard Chartered and Liverpool
First joining forces in 2010, international banking group Standard Chartered became Liverpool’s fifth (and current) main shirt sponsor, taking over from Danish beer manufacturer Carlsberg (1992-2010).
Initially agreeing a four-year partnership worth a reported £80m, the union has seen a great amount of success for both parties. Standard Chartered have utilised the partnership to support a number of sustainability and community investment programmes, including reaching more than 670,000 young people and raising over $64m to support their ‘Futuremakers’ programme.
The partnership has also enabled one of Liverpool’s most successful periods in its recent history, with the club winning the UEFA Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Premier League, Carabao Cup and the Emirates FA Cup all with the Standard Chartered logo on the front of their shirts.
The success has been illustrated by the partnership becoming one of the longest running shirt sponsorship in Premier League history, as well as seeing three contract extensions, with the most recent, taking the partnership into it's 17th year, by the end of the 2026-27 season.
With more than 770 million followers across the world... the club brings excitement and joy to so many of our colleagues, clients and their communities...
Bill Winter, Standard Chartered Group Chief Executive - speaking after the bank's contract extension with Liverpool in 2022
Emirates and European Giants
The final entry on this list covers one brand’s principal sponsorship of five European footballing giants; AC Milan, Arsenal, Benfica, Olympique Lyonnais and Real Madrid
Choosing to sponsor several football clubs in different markets is a route which some brands opt for as a faster alternative to engage with target audiences across a broader geographical scale.
Emirates’ front-of-shirt sponsorship of some of the most traditionally successful football clubs in Italy, England, Portugal, France and Spain is part of the airline's investment in key markets. By placing their brand front and centre across these markets, Emirates look to work with the clubs to increase their support for customers and partners in the regions.
The football clubs themselves have also greatly benefitted from the partnerships with AC Milan, Arsenal and Benfica all winning domestic silverware in recent years, whilst Real Madrid won an impressive 20 major titles in the first decade of the partnership, including five UEFA Champions League titles.
Although only formed in 1985, Emirates have quickly risen to becoming one of the most well-known and profitable airlines in the world, with the company’s investment in sport sponsorship at the heart of the meteoric rise.
Partnerships in sports to raise awareness and grow the brand
Reaching millions (even billions in some cases) of people every day, in all corners of the world, football clubs function as one of the most engaging platforms ever known to sport, and the wider business world.
Having been around since ancient Greek and Roman times, it’s clear to see why sponsorship in sport is here to stay.