Sports Sponsorship Is Flourishing despite the Recession

By Blackshaw, Ian | The International Sports Law Journal, July-October 2010 | Go to article overview

Sports Sponsorship Is Flourishing despite the Recession


Blackshaw, Ian, The International Sports Law Journal


Usain Bolt, the 24-year old Jamaican triple Olympic gold and world record sprint champion, has just signed what is believed to be the biggest sponsorship deal in the history of Athletics with PUMA, the Swiss-based sports clothing and shoes manufacturer, with whom he has been associated and financially supported since he was 15 years old. He has extended his current sponsorship contract for three years until 2013 for a sum reputed to be in the region of US$20 million and is due to bring out a new clothing line with his own branding in December 2010!

Bolt, who is currently out of action due to a hamstring injury, wants to be a legend in his sport and make his sporting brand as big as that of the legendary former American professional basketball player Michael Jordan. Puma is reported to have gained the equivalent in advertising exposure of US$105 million from the publicity derived from its association with Bolt! This shows the value of sports sponsorship to a company engaged in the manufacture, promotion and sale of consumer products around the world. As they say in marketing circles: one good brand deserves another and each feeds off each other!

According to Jochen Zeitz, chairman and chief executive of Puma, Bolt could achieve a similar profile to David Beckham who, of course, is a brand in his own right:

"He's the best paid athlete in history and also one of the best paid athletes overall. I would say if you asked about the rareness of Usain Bolt he's up there with some of the best in any sport. He connects to the fans in a unique way, and not just in a stadium - he can connect on the performance side as well as the lifestyle side - and I think that's the difference to many other athletes who do great things but cannot really find that connection to the fans."

And I would add that is what successful sports sponsorship is all about: sporting prowess; lifestyle; and connecting with the fans! And, that, incidentally, is where Tiger Woods came unstuck!

The new Usain Bolt sponsorship deal raises the question of how sports sponsorship generally has been faring due to the general economic slowdown, which despite politicians' claims that we are coming out of the global recession, is still reverberating and having adverse economic effects on various business sectors around the world.

On the other hand, it appears that the global sports industry - worth more than 3% of world trade - is, in fact, faring very well under the present economic circumstances, if current major football sponsorship deals, that have recently been announced, are anything to go by!

Here are the top ten football sponsorship deals that have been reported to date and are quite impressive:

1. Manchester United and Nike - [pounds sterling]302.9 million over 13 years

The biggest of all club-level football sponsorship deals was agreed in 2002 between Nike and Manchester United. Nike replaced Umbro as United's kit provider, agreeing to pay United a mind-blowing sum of [pounds sterling]302.9 million!

2. Juventus and Tamoil - [pounds sterling]165 million over 10 years

At the time this sponsorship agreement was signed in 2005, the potential ten-year shirt naming rights deal - worth [pounds sterling]75m over the first five years, and [pounds sterling]90m if renewed for the next five - between Juventus and the Libyan-owned oil company, Tamoil, was claimed to be the biggest in football history. However, just over a year later, the football corruption scandal erupted in Italy and, not surprisingly, the deal came to an abrupt end! …

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