World Economy

Chinese Emerge as Major Sponsors in World Cup 2018

An advertisement by a Chinese dairy company sponsoring the 2018 World Cup, at a subway station in Beijing.An advertisement by a Chinese dairy company sponsoring the 2018 World Cup, at a subway station in Beijing.

Significant investment from Chinese companies was not enough to prevent the value of World Cup sponsorship falling for this summer’s tournament, a report has revealed.

The Nielsen Sports World Football Report 2018 found FIFA’s sponsorship revenue for the 2015-2018 cycle was $1.45 billion, down from $1.62 billion for 2011-2014, which included the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Forbes reported.

The vast majority of FIFA’s sponsorship income comes from the World Cup, held at the end of each four-year sponsorship cycle.

Since being engulfed by a corruption scandal, FIFA has lost key World Cup sponsors including Sony, Johnson & Johnson and Castrol, with Nielsen finding the 2015-2018 cycle was “a tougher sell than the previous two.”

“But a new crop of sponsors, including several from China, helped FIFA weather the storm,” the report said.

“FIFA will be hoping to return to growth in the cycle leading up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. It can probably look forward to support from Middle Eastern brands seeking to capitalize on the region’s first World Cup.”

  Unprecedented Presence

While no World Cup sponsors come from South America and just one is from Africa—the government of Egypt—Asian sponsors account for 39% of deals. Led by property developer The Wanda Group, one of seven World Cup 2018 partners, Chinese businesses, in particular, will have an unprecedented presence at the tournament.

“Football has boomed in China, with strong encouragement from the government, which is keen to host the World Cup as soon as possible,” the report said.

“FIFA’s Chinese deals can be seen as the country’s corporations rowing behind the national effort to develop the game and attract the World Cup.”

Reflecting the continuing geographic shift in investment in the world game, the report found the United Arab Emirates had invested more than $1 billion in shirt sponsorship in the top six European leagues between 2008-2017.

“The UAE’s investment is driven by the government-owned airlines Etihad and Emirates, and their deals are some of the most prominent examples of the trend of Middle Eastern governments using sport to give their nations a bigger global profile.

“Abu Dhabi-based Etihad sponsors the Premier League’s Manchester City. Dubai-based Emirates sponsors several clubs, including Real Madrid, AC Milan and Arsenal.”

  Germans Reclaim Title

In 2017 however, German companies took back first place as the market investing the most in shirt sponsorship. Traditionally a strong backer of German domestic football, German brands have spent $1.36 billion on shirt sponsorship deals in the past 10 years, $300 million more than UAE businesses. German giants Bayern Munich, for example, have a shirt deal with Deutsche Telekom worth a reported $37.3 million a year.

A survey of 18 major markets showed why sponsors are drawn to soccer, with more than 43% of people saying they were “interested” or “very interested” in the sport. This made it comfortably the world’s most popular sport ahead of basketball (36%).

In both China and India–the world’s biggest markets–interest in soccer had increased but still showed room for further growth. In China, interest increased from 27% in 2013 to 32% in 2017, while in India it surged from 30% to 45%.

“Football’s extraordinary reach into countries and cultures around the world makes it unequaled among sports in terms of value to media and sponsors,” Glenn Lovett, Nielsen Sports Global Managing Director, said.

The report found advertisers will need to increasingly look to mobile to reach younger fans. One in four fans aged 11-20 plan to watch the 2018 World Cup on a smartphone or tablet.


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