Marketing in Football

The most populous sport in the world, football has evolved and completed various phases. However, the most recent transformation in the beautiful game has been through none other than marketing in football. Sheer volume of finances and money being pumped into the game goes to show how profitable the football business is perceived to be.

The marketing data and statistics just provide an astounding picture, for instance, Manchester City in the season of 2017/18 alone spent an amount on their defence greater than the defence finance of 52 countries. For viewers and supporters, the game is a battle of 90 minutes whereas, for moneymakers, it’s a commercial venture which just promises too lucrative a monetary value to be ignored.


From what started as merely shirt sponsorships, football marketing now consists of massive television deals, stadium naming rights, kit business and much more. Businesses took advantage of the global reach of the sport by aligning the fan base of a particular team with their brand. Jersey sales in distant places from the football club’s home are nothing but just a strategy and process of spreading a brand’s name. No wonder big brands worldwide are caught in a race to capture the signatures of football clubs. Adidas taking the opportunity of the fanbase and popularity of the world biggest’ team, Real Madrid renewed their contract for a mammoth 1.1 billion Euros until 2028. The Spanish club also put to pen a staggering deal with Emirates in 2017 worth 280 million Euros over five years.

Shirt sponsorships are the most relevant piece of marketing in football since those are the visuals directly witnessed by viewers and what they use to associate with their beloved clubs sometimes just using that brand merely for their relationship with their favourite team. Who can forget the Arsenal X 02 era or the decorated partnership of Carlsberg with Liverpool? Vodafone would see the likes of pre- Inter Miami David Beckham, pre-hair transplant Wayne Rooney and pre-dental work Cristiano Ronaldo become superstars at Old Trafford while donning the mobile phone network on their torso.

Role of Transfers

Transfers in football play an important work in the various tactical choices of coaches. The transfer policies have been stern fixing an upper limit that was rarely crossed for many years. However, in recent times, transfer fees have gone haywire where acquiring player services takes the front step ahead of any other factor, even money. It all began with Neymar’s 222 million Euros move to Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona which sparked similar big-money moves in the following seasons including Eden Hazard, Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho and Kylian Mbappe, all exceeding 100 million Euros. The non-hesitation comes from the fact that clubs see their costs being covered up by the revenue player will generate through marketing in football.

2009 saw 80,000 fans turn up for the presentation of Cristiano Ronaldo after his 80 million pounds move to Real Madrid from Manchester United. Experts predicted that Ronaldo would more than recoup his transfer fees in jersey sales alone, along with his performances on the pitch.

In 2016 the new record transfer fee was set by Manchester United’s signing of Paul Pogba. How United announced the signing shows the evolution of outside influence in the game. The hashtag ‘POGBACK’ trended on Twitter to announce the return of Pogba who left the club earlier for a much smaller amount than what was paid to get him back. While Ronaldo managed to return his transfer fees to the club, the same was not with Paul Pogba whose contract has a clause that prevents any effort for recouping the fee while his performances on the pitch didn’t help the club either. The value in the Frenchman was lost.

All of the elements including big signings, naming rights, shirt sponsorships have combined to form a marketing mix that works together to generate revenue for the club and those associated with it.

The Case of Real Madrid

The status that Real Madrid enjoys nowadays was not present in the early days of the 21st century and has been an outcome of a properly planned policy. In the early 2000s, the club was not at par with popular clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal. The hierarchy of the club devised the famously known ‘Galacticos’ policy. The plan was to sign the best players in the world and take advantage of their image to make a brand value for Real Madrid along with on-field success. To imagine players like Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, David Beckham and Figo in the same team just seem impossible but it was made real by Real Madrid. While the project didn’t exactly deliver what was expected on the pitch, the marketing value established made the club the biggest in the world.

With the signings of marquee players, Madrid had established itself as the ‘club that made impossible possible. The best example was David Beckham. To sign the English captain, Madrid completely switched the winning formula just to make space for Beckham. One of the major reasons was Beckham’s popularity in Asia. Asia at that time was viewed as a growing market and capture of which would reap benefits in the future. Presently, Asia’s majority football fanbase is devoted towards Madrid and that was made possible by the long-term vision of the club’s president 20 years back.

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