Champions League team sponsor; A fierce battle

Hello all,

Now the Champions League is over and crowned José Mourinho as the best coach in the world, many important questions will arise such as “How many Inter players will he bring along to Real Madrid”, “How many Statues will be erected for him in Milan” etc etc.  As you know, I am not concerned about these unsignificant football questions and am essentially focusing on football marketing areas. Today I made an interesting exercise that I want to share with you. I started by wondering which team sponsor has the most victories in Champions League.

As I mentioned in a previous article, there are 3 major football brands: adidas, Nike and Puma. A SPORT+MARKT survey also outlined this fact. I therefore wanted to find out how team sponsors rank in Champions League victories. Long story short, I put this chart together.


I started from the season 1992-1993 when the European Cup become the UEFA Champions League we know.

What are the key learnings?

1993-1999: Everybody’s happy
1. No less than 6 team sponsors had an exposure during the Champions League finals.
2. Very regional sponsorship. Italian teams with italian brands (AC Milan with Lotto and Juventus with Kappa). Spanish teams with spanish brands (Real Madrid with Kelme). Manchester United was sponsored by manchester based football brand Umbro.

2000-2005: adidas leadership
1.  adidas had a strong leading position with 4 consecutive wins, 2 runner up teams, and a full adidas final in 2003
2. Nike and Puma are still in the race with a gold medal in 2004 and a second spot in 2001 for the Beaverton firm. Jochen Zeitz’s Puma has an only appearance in 2004 with AS Monaco.
3. Regional sponsorship is no more. Valencia switched from Luanvi to Nike in 2001. Real Madrid and AC Milan are now adidas teams. Only Juventus remains with the italian brand Lotto….for now.

2006-2010: The pie is for two only
1. Since 2006, the Champions League finals have always featured adidas and Nike teams.
2. Nike is increasing its presence by starting off in 2006 with a full Champions League final in Paris. Since 2008 the swoosh won the Champions League 3 times in a row, confirming its increasing presence with Inter’s victory yesterday.
3. In that period, adidas has ended up as runner ups more often than Nike.
4. No regional sponsors, Puma is not even present.



So what does that tell us?
Well, the most important point is that adidas and Nike are positioning themselves more and more as football brands, but this is nothing new. What is interesting though is to see how adidas and Nike are in an “open war” in the best clubs competition since the last 10+ year. Interesting as well to notice that Puma, although a strong presence in World Cup 2010 (7 teams, Eto’o as an icon, etc…) does not have a strong presence in the Champions League finals at all.

Becoming a football team sponsor has become expensive, very expensive. Hence the vanishing of “regional” brands in football such as Kelme, Luanvi or even Lotto on the international scene. Basically, this chart shows clearly that only two football brands can afford sponsoring so many many major teams and keeping on doing so as their return on investment is significant.

Since 1993 and until yesterday the Champions League sponsors “gold medals” is as follow:
adidas: 6 victories, 7 runner ups
Nike: 6 victories, 3 runner ups

Of course, there is a “subjective” element into it if Chelsea players had been more accurate during penalty kicks in 2008, and I still wonder how AC Milan managed to lose to Liverpool in 2005. This subjective element is called football, and this is why I love it so much.

Karl Lusbec


8 thoughts on “Champions League team sponsor; A fierce battle

  1. I made another interesting observation yesterday. It was in regard to footwear sponsorships. Adidas was the footwear of choice for Bayern Munich’s starting eleven.

    On the other side, Inter featured seven players in Adidas footwear, Nike with three and Puma with one.

    Is it fair to say that Adidas won the footwear battle?


  2. Hello FABO,
    This is a very interesting comment indeed. Thanks for sharing this valuable info. Footwear is a very important issue for football brands especially when it comes to big event like a champions league final.
    If adidas had more players on the field of play yesterday, yes they win the footwear battle. I believe however that what comes first is which is the sponsor who lift the trophy, hence Nike benefited from a significant exposure.


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