As the World Cup continued to capture the globe’s attention, we can all remember sports tournaments with standout commercial campaigns in the past. The brands we’ll remember are likely to be the same but who really tops the list of sponsorship partners in sports?
It’s the question on everyone’s, or no one’s, lips but just to be safe, the Nifty team have broken down the top five spenders in sports, so you don’t have to. Can you guess where your favourite brand will come?
It’s no surprise Nike’s in this list, although it may shock some that they’re not top. The worldwide brand spends a whopping $1.6b a year on commercial deals, and half of that is in football.
Nike has signed some of the largest sports sponsorship deals in history, including lifetime deals with Cristiano Ronaldo (which started in 2003 and is expected to exceed $1b), Tiger Woods and LeBron James (another deal projected to break the $1b mark). They also signed Rory McIlroy to a 10-year, $250m deal in 2013. As a result, they are probably the most coveted brand in sports – who wouldn’t want to be sponsored by Nike after all?
Working with Nike means being associated with some of the biggest sports clubs and organisations on the planet too. From their deals with Brazil, England, Portugal and the Dutch national football teams, to their club deals with Liverpool, Barcelona and PSG, to name a few.
From signature shoe deals (the Nike Air Jordan brand in now worth more than $3b) to some of the most iconic campaigns, Nike continue to solidify their position in sports.
Did you know the South Korean manufacturing conglomerate spends a whopping five per cent of its annual revenue on marketing and sports sponsorship forms a major part of their strategy.
The brand boasts such a foothold in sports that they have a dedicate sports marketing and sports club division called Samsung Sports. They look after commercial relationships with the likes of David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Lebron James, Manny Pacquiao, David Ortiz and Usain Bolt, as well as agreements with La Liga, NASCAR, the PGA Championship and MLB.
The company also owns K League club Suwon Samsung Bluewings, baseball team Samsung Lions and basketball’s Seoul Samsung Thunders. They’re also a natural fit for eSports and are the official sponsor of Guild Esports, which is part owned by Beckham.
3. Coca Cola
Coca-Cola has led the way when it comes to marketing and brand recognition, particularly in sport. These global trend setters were the first sponsor of the Olympic Games back in 1928 and have continued to be a major player in the sports space since.
Today this strategy capitalises on some of the largest sporting events on the planet, including World Cups for football, cricket and rugby. Coca-Cola has sponsored the FIFA World Cup since 1978 but they’re in on motorsports too, as the brand remains one of the primary sponsors of NASCAR.
The English Football League was known at the Coca-Cola League for six seasons, and the Football League Cup was branded the Coca-Cola League Cup from 1992 until 1998. These days Coca Cola is more involved in the Premier League, which promotes several of the parent company’s brands.
In the US, Coca-Cola boasted an incredible 19-year partnership the NFL that ended in 2002 and an even-more-astonishing 28-year relationship with the NBA, which ended in 2015, before the drinks giant spent three seasons sponsoring MLB in 2017.
It’s not just tournaments that Coca-Cola gets in on either. LeBron James has a long history with the brand as well as female footballer stars Alex Morgan and Kelley O-Hara, golfer Jordan Spieth, Olympian Laurie Hernandez and NASCAR drivers Denny Hamilin, Bubba Wallace and Joey Logano.
2. Red Bull
Red Bull changed the shape of commercials when they saturated the sports world with their fun-loving, quirky ideas that first kicked off in the Eighties. Focusing on extreme sports and motor racing, Red Bull’s pinnacle sports involved are the two F1 World Championship teams, Scuderia Alpha Tauri and Red Bull Racing and are both owned by the energy drinks brand.
Red Bull’s strategy in sport is a fiercely aggressive sports team ownership model. They purchased Austrian team SV Austria Salzburg in 2005 and renamed the side Red Bull Salzburg, who now play in the appropriately named Red Bull Arena.
Bundesliga side RB Leipzig is owned by Red Bull and plays at Red Bull Arena. To circumvent Bundesliga rules which prevent corporate names being used in a team name, the club is officially known as RasenBallsport Leipzig (Lawn Ball Sports Leipzig) and use the initials RB for RasenBallsport. Other football commitments include New York Red Bulls in the MLS and Red Bull Bragantino in Brazil.
In recent times the brand has made a strong presence in sponsoring eSports, working with more than 750 eSport athletes in 2016.
It’s no surprise who tops the sports sponsorship charts when PepsiCo spend an eye-watering $3b a year on advertising and marketing.
The company has a history and ongoing strategy of sponsoring leagues and tournaments in addition to individual teams and athletes.
In 2015, PepsiCo finally broke the 28-year relationship between NBA and Coca-Cola when they coaxed America’s top-flight basketball league to the Pepsi corner. Since then, their work in sports has continued to flourish and the brands continued to challenge Coca-Cola, particularly when they persuaded LeBron James to join them, ending his 17-year relationship with Coca-Cola in the process to become the face of Mountain Dew in the US.
The sponsorship wars will continue as brands become more central to sports as viewing figures continue to fall, but who will be top of the charts in five years’ time as Middle Eastern money and betting firm deals stop to compete with the iconic brands?
If you’d like to understand more about your commercial opportunities in a digital age, speak to a member of the Nifty team today.