Sleeve sponsorship – killing footballs soul?

The Premier League is becoming a hotbed for sponsorship. Every brand wants to piggyback the teams as mature products and showcase them to the world that way. One new avenue is sleeve sponsorship which is to kick-in next year.


Manchester City F.C. has become the first Premier League team to announce an official sleeve partner for the start of the 2017/2018 season.
With the value of sleeve space estimated to be worth 15-20% of a Premier League club’s front-of-shirt sponsorship, it seems it will only be a matter of time until other teams follow suit.
Clubs will need to identify whether existing agreements contain any problematic clauses for such sleeve sponsorship opportunities, for instance exclusivity arrangements. Such clauses may prevent clubs from selling jersey space to companies in the same sector as their front-of-shirt sponsor or, in the extreme, to any other potential sponsor at all. In this scenario, teams may need to bargain with current sponsors if they wish to make space on their shirt sleeves and, in this regard, it may be worth considering notice and termination provisions. It is also a reminder, when clubs are negotiating new sponsorships agreements, to have a keen eye on exclusivity clauses as they may close the door to the opportunity for further advertising income.
On the other hand for sponsors, does having a sleeve sponsor dilute the value of your front-of-shirt sponsorship? Sponsors too might be considering their positions, and appropriate contractual protections, in the event other clubs pursue such sleeve sponsorships. Thus clubs should consider the effect that introducing a new commercial partner will have on existing close associations. In some cases, it may have potential to jeopardise the relationship. An example could be a club whose front-of-shirt sponsor also has stadium naming rights.
There is scope to expand sponsorships to the back of the t-shirt and shorts like in Spain and South America. Clubs will need to be on their feet to be able to take advantage of the potential though. Although one must ask, where do you draw the line between the sponsorship and the sport? Has football lost its soul? To read more, click on the below link.
First published by Joseph Byrne and Andrew Crystal.

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