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The 10 Biggest Sponsorship Deals In Soccer History

The 10 Biggest Sponsorship Deals In Soccer History

Every year, it's estimated that roughly 400 million people across the world tune in to watch the UEFA Champions League final on TV. For the players and teams involved, it's an opportunity to lift one of the most prestigious trophies in soccer, and for the fans it's a chance to create special memories for life.

But big games like the UCL final or a Premier League title decider also provide serious commercial opportunities for the clubs involved. Professional football is capable of drawing incredible TV viewing figures, and with this broadcasting potential comes potentially game-changing extra revenue.

For many years, clubs have been capitalising on this development in the world of football by signing big-money sponsorship deals with brands and companies and thereby generating lots of additional cash for player signings, stadium upgrades and training ground facilities.

These days, elite-level clubs can earn a huge amount of money through these partnerships, and in this article we'll be guiding you through the details of exactly how much the world's biggest clubs are making from their lucrative deals, with a focus on kit sponsorship deals. But before we get to the biggest sponsorship deals in soccer, we're going to provide a bit of background about this relatively recent phenomenon within professional football.

A Brief History Of Sponsorship In Soccer

In the modern game, brand sponsorships are a widespread aspect of association football that supporters are more than accustomed to. However, this wasn't always the case. While the first English football team to sign a shirt sponsorship deal was Coventry City with automobile company Talbot in 1978, it wasn't until a decade later that sponsorship was commonplace in the sport.

By the late 1980s, sponsorship deals were accepted as a way for clubs to generate extra revenue by advertising companies on their shirts, training gear or within the stadium in exchange for payments from the companies sponsoring them.

Sponsorship in soccer also extends to naming rights for stadiums, training grounds, cup competitions such as the Emirates FA Cup and various other aspects of the day-to-day running of a club. As the amount of money in football has continued to grow significantly during the last 30 years, it has become common for clubs to sign multiple commercial partnerships, not just for kit manufacturing and shirt or short advertising, but also for hospitality options at the stadium or aspects of matchday entertainment.

These days, as well as all professional clubs having various different commercial partnerships and shirt sponsorship deals, many individual players also have contracts with major brands that state they can only wear goods produced by the brand in public or on the football pitch.

Cristiano Ronaldo signed a $1 billion lifetime contract with Nike in 2016 (making him the first footballer to sign a lifetime deal with the US manufacturing giants), while Argentina captain Lionel Messi sign a similar $1 billion deal with Adidas the following year, which gives the brand exclusive image rights and means he's contracted to wear Adidas boots for the rest of his career.

Before these two players became giants of the global game, England star David Beckham signed a $160.8m contract with Adidas in 2003, which was believed to be an unprecedented lifetime deal at the time. Nowadays, tons of far less famous players also have deals penned with sports companies, while pro clubs are making insanely lucrative partnerships with brands. In the next section of this article, we'll be running through the 10 biggest sponsorship deals in soccer at the time of writing.

The Top 10 Biggest Sponsorship Deals In Soccer

All over the world, professional football clubs are profiting from the sport's increased viewership and commercial potential. Soccer sponsorship deals are struck up and renewed on a regular basis, and the biggest deals in professional football relate to kit sponsorship. Below, you'll find a list of the ten most lucrative deals in the world right now. The stats here are courtesy of Football Benchmark.

#10. Liverpool (Nike - £150.45m)

Departed Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has spoken regularly about the difficulty of competing financially with perennial Premier League winners Manchester City, but his former  club has plenty of revenue streams itself, one of which is a bumper £150.45m deal with US sports manufacturing giants Nike. Liverpool signed their current deal with Nike in 2020, securing a five-year contract that is set to renew next summer. Given the growth of the club in recent years, they will be aiming to renegotiate a boosted fee with their sponsors after a period of upheaval.

#9. Juventus (Adidas - £376.8m)

The most successful team in the history of the Italian game, Juventus have been able to make significant financial profits from their achievements on the pitch. In 2019, they signed an eight-year kit sponsorship deal with Adidas for a reported fee of £376.8m, a massive price tag that makes them the club in Italy with the most lucrative shirt deal.

#8. Arsenal (Adidas - £450.78m)

In terms of payment per year, the Gunners are one of the best-paid clubs on this list, having agreed a £450.78m deal with Adidas just this year (2024). Spread over six years, it represents a substantial cash injection per annum, and it was this increase that would have presumably persuaded Arsenal to move away from previous kit sponsors Puma and Nike.

#7. Barcelona (Nike - £540m)

Barcelona's financial struggles off the pitch have been documented extensively in recent years, but their huge £540m deal with Nike is one of the key ways they're bringing in cash to try to address that issue. At the same time, Barca are reputedly considering switching to Puma and potentially almost doubling their current £90m per season deal to £171m.

#6. Manchester City (Puma - £651.4m)

You might've expected City to be higher up this list, given their seemingly infinite wealth and on-pitch success in recent years, but the fact that the club signed their current deal with Puma back in 2019 means it's not quite as lucrative as Arsenal's Adidas sponsorship, for example. In total, the club bring in £65.14m each season from their Puma deal.

#5. Bayern Munich (Adidas - £769.2m)

The biggest and most successful club in Germany may not have been able to halt Bayer Leverkusen's invincible title charge during 2023/24, but one silver lining for the Bayern Munich hierarchy is that they're netting tons more cash than any of their Bundesliga rivals. Over a 15-year deal, the historic German brand Adidas pay a whopping £769.2m to the club in exchange for shirt sponsorship.

#4. Real Madrid (Adidas - £816m)

Real Madrid — aka Los Galacticos — are a club that knows the power of commerce and marketing better than most, being the richest club in the world. Their £816m mega deal with Adidas is the most lucrative per season on this list, with the eight-year contract meaning the Spanish giants receive a massive £102 per season from the German brand.

#3. Paris Saint-Germain (Nike - £888.94m)

Investment from Qatari Sports Investments has transformed PSG into one of the richest clubs on earth, and the increased success and visibility this has given them was what convinced Nike to pen a £888.94m contract with them lasting a total of 13 years. Spread out over that time, the deal means PSG receive around £68.38m per annum from their sponsors.

#2. Chelsea (Nike - £902.7m)

Chelsea are one of the world's most wealthy teams, as their lavish recent activity in the transfer market demonstrates. They're currently mid-way through a lengthy 15-year kit sponsorship deal with Nike that started in 2017 and will run until 2032. It's a substantial £60.18m per season contract that is long enough to outlast even their lengthiest player contracts.

#1. Manchester United (Adidas - £906m)

The most profitable shirt sponsorship deal in international soccer belongs to Manchester United, whose commercial power and global supporter base is well-known. These factors were crucial in allowing the Red Devils to sign a 10-year Adidas contract that kicks off in 2025 and is worth a whopping £906m (over £90m per season).

The recent nature of this deal is a big reason why it's so high up the list, but it's also impossible to ignore United's extraordinary visibility and influence all over the world, which would tempt any brand to want to get involved with the club.

Before we go, it's worth noting that sponsorship deals can sometimes come with a bit of controversy. Some of the 115 charges Manchester City are currently facing for allegedly breaking Profit and Sustainability Rules are related to sponsorship, with City accused of "funnell[ing] money into the club via inflated sponsorship deals with UAE-based companies". The increased power of the footballing authorities to investigate and punish clubs for their financial dealings means that in the future, brand sponsorship deals are likely to be kept an even closer eye on.

If you'd like to find out more about the charges being faced by the current Premier League champions, check out our in-depth article on the Manchester City Financial Fair Play situation explained.