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Published December 13th 2017

Which Football Sponsors Get The Best ROI?

We set out to discover which sponsorship generated the most visibility and which sponsorship generated the best ROI...

Over the last 180 days (June 16th – Dec 12th)  we used Brandwatch Analytics to research the value of soccer kit sponsors in Europe.

We focused our research on the four largest kit manufactures; Adidas, Nike, Puma and Under Armour.

Using Image Insights, our logo detection feature, we set out to discover:

  1. Which sponsorship generated the most visibility 
  2. Which sponsorship generated the best ROI

How we collected the data

We searched for images from two sources; Twitter and Instagram.

Specifically, we collected every image on those sites that included a kit manufactures logo and the club it sponsors. For example, the image below would count as a Puma image for Arsenal:

The total mentions collected over six months were multiplied by two to forecast how many mentions each sponsor would receive over a whole year.

We only monitored clubs if they were sponsored by Adidas, Nike, Puma or Under Armour and if we could find the finances behind the sponsorship.

For that reason, Swansea is not included (as it is sponsored by Joma) and Borussia Dortmund is not included (as we couldn’t identify the sponsorship cost).

Most visible clubs

Here are the clubs and sponsors that were pictured most online:

  • Manchester United lead the way with almost 2x more images than Real Madrid in second place
  • Manchester City, Inter Milan, and Juventus seem to underperform when compared to their European rivals
  • Leicester and AC Milan perform well, especially as both clubs aren’t present in the Champions League

This analysis provides an interesting look at true visibility online, but it doesn’t represent the real ROI of each kit manufactures investment.

To understand that, we divided the total images each sponsor received by the amount paid for their sponsorship.

This showed exactly how much each sponsor paid per image: 

The best ROI in football sponsorship

Incredibly Leicester and their kit sponsor Puma lead the way. The cost per image for this sponsorship is just £2.60. 

At the other end of the scale is Inter Milan. Nike pays £68.82 for each image it receives alongside Inter.

Across the dataset, the average cost per unique image is £43. This is before shares, likes, comments and other engagement metrics are included – which could increase the total reach.

The best ROI in football player sponsorship:

On average, Messi generates more than 2x more images online.

With apparently the exact same sponsorship money behind them, Messi also offers 2x more ROI.

Taking a closer look at the data, we found 5 surprising insights: 

1. Puma’s smart logo placement

Puma performs incredibly in this analysis.

In total, their logo is present 2,935,158 images paying just £40m for their combined sponsors. This leads to an average spend of just £13.62 per image.

  • Puma average £13.62 per image
  • Nike average £43.53 per image

One of the reasons for this is where they position their logo. Unlike other brands, Puma also places their logo on the sleeve of their kits: 

No other kit sponsor does this and it appears to greatly increase their visibility.

Puma is also fortunate to sponsor clubs with managers who tend to wear their clothing.

Arsene Wenger (Arsenal), Sean Dyche (Burnley) and Craig Shakespeare (ex-Leicester) all wore Puma clothing:

2. The Neymar effect

PSG and Nike come in second place, generating an image for every £7.31 spent.

Although this is helped by the clubs’ stature and its presence in the Champions League, the main reason behind the position is Neymar.

The chart below reveals all of the images for each club over time (10% sample):

PSG and Nike’s spike on the 3rd of August dwarfs every other event over the last 180 days.

In fact, on that day they generated an incredible 142 new unique images every minute. 

Neymar’s record-breaking transfer from Barcelona to PSG caused this incredible spike for Nike.

While this could be expected for such an incredible move, Nike should still have PSG to thank for including their logo in the flagship post:

This image went viral.

It was shared  130,000 times and was seen by 180 million people on Twitter and Instagram.

No other image achieved the same volume of engagement during our analysis.

3. Smart Owned Content From Arsenal

Puma’s Arsenal sponsorship performs especially well.

Despite spending a mammoth £34m a year sponsoring Arsenal, Puma generates the third best ROI.

One of the reasons behind this success is Arsenal’s goal gifs (used to announce every goal):

Fortunately for Puma, these typically viral tweets always contain the Puma logo:

Other clubs don’t promote their sponsor’s logo in the same way.

For example, Real Madrid’s goal gifs don’t include any sponsor logos:

It’s probably not something sponsors demand in their negotiations with clubs, yet it’s clearly a smart way to boost visibility.

4. Nike’s Cheap Roma Deal

Roma is a Champions League club.

They feature heavily in the fight for most Italian competitions and they have a team of well established international players.

Simply put, they’re guaranteed to generate a consistently high volume of visibility online.

Despite this, Nike pays the club just £3.5 million per year to sponsor the team, less than Southampton and Newcastle’s deals.

AC Milan and Inter Milan were paid £19m and £15m for their sponsorships this year, yet neither featured in the Champions League.

Roma can and should use insights like this to negotiate a better deal with their current sponsors or to look elsewhere.

5. Nike Overpaying Compared To Adidas

Despite a good deal with Roma, it’s clear that overall Nike struggles to generate the same ROI as its rivals, Adidas.

In our data set, Nike spend £282m per year, while Adidas spend just £80m

However, Adidas are included in 95m images alongside their clubs, while Nike appears in just 64m.

On average Adidas pay just £8.45 per image, while Nike spends £43.53.

The American brand spends much more but with an astonishingly low return on investment.

Next Steps

This report confirms the importance of logo detection.

It reveals insights most brands miss. Without an effective logo detection tool, you’ll fail to really understand your visibility online.

If you’re interested in seeing how Image Insights could be used for your brand, click here. 

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