Soccer: team partnerships at the heart of brands’ European strategy

In the battle between Nike and Adidas for the European sports equipment market, the American brand has outpaced the German brand in terms of the number of partnership agreements signed for the 2014/2015 season.

This is one of the conclusions of the study “European Football Kit Supplier Report 2014" published by Repucom and PR Marketing, which provides a comprehensive overview of the sports equipment industry’s top five European soccer leagues: Britain, Spain, France, Germany and Italy.

Manchester United switched from Nike to Adidas

While 25 brands share the clubs that make up the five major European leagues, the Nike now has partnerships with over a quarter of the teams (26.5% to be exact), while Adidas represents 18.4% of the market.

The American company has 26 teams under contract, five more than for the 2013/2014 season. Adidas in turn has 18, or four less than last season. According to the report, Nike is thus dominant in four out of the top five leagues.

"Barclays Premier League (the English league) is the only league in which Adidas leads with five partnerships as compared with Nike’s three", the report reads.

This is mainly due to the large contract signed by the German brand with Manchester United, a huge contract for the Barclays Premier League.

Adidas’s choice to invest heavily in the English league is obviously a strategic move. The clubs that make up the Barclays Premier League dominate in terms of shirt sales with more than 5 million units sold in 2013/2014.

The next biggest leagues are the Liga BBVA (Spain) and the Bundesliga (Germany) with 3.1 million and 2.32 million jerseys respectively sold. The French and Italian championships are at the bottom round out things out with 1.22 million shirts sold in France and 1.18 million in Italy.

As to the continuous battle between Nike and Adidas, the report notes the difference in approach between the two leading brands. "While Nike maximizes the number of club deals it has, Adidas puts the emphasis on attracting the most famous clubs with the largest followings that ultimately generate the biggest sales," says Pierre-Emmanuel Davin, managing director of Repucom France.

Dr. Rohlmann of PR Marketing adds: "The monetary values of supplier contracts increased exponentially. The challenge is twofold for these brands: to both benefit from these partnerships through the income they derive from the sale of jerseys and other equipment, and to increase their reputation internationally."

The report also demonstrated how outsiders can find room… And showed how Puma was able to reinforce its position as the third largest soccer equipment providers in Europe thanks to its new contract with Arsenal, which formerly held a contract with Nike.

Puma now has partnership deals with nine teams in the top 5 European leagues including Borussia Dortmund and FC Girondins de Bordeaux.  

The only other brand to equip more than four teams during the 2014/2015 season championships was the Italian brand Kappa. The brand has eight partnerships with the likes of Toulouse Football Club, Evian-Thonon-Gaillard FC and Sporting Club de Bastia.

Overall, 13 million jerseys were sold on during the 2013/2014 season by 98 clubs from the top five European leagues, or 14% more than the 2011/2012 season.

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