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Counting down the biggest sports sponsors on the planet

Time and again, history has shown that whatever might be happening in the broader economic and political world, sport always manages to provide a distraction and a feel-good factor when people need it most. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons big businesses want to promote their association with the most popular sports, teams and athletes, to bask in some of that reflected glory.

It’s a trend that shows no indication of diminishing. Global spend on sports sponsorship rose to an estimated $46 billion in 2019, up four percent on the previous year. But which are the businesses that are investing the most money? In this age of sports betting, there has been lots of media discussion over online bookmakers sponsoring sport, especially in the English Premier League, but also in high profile American sports series. Yet as you will see when we count down the top eight sponsors, most are from far more familiar and traditional sectors.

8th – Castrol

Why the NFL needs an “official engine oil” might be open to debate, but we all know what it is. BP-owned Castrol has one of the world’s most recognizable logos and it’s one that consistently appears on the biggest sporting stages. The brand was one of the lead sponsors of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, and has put its name to countless Formula One Grands Prix over the years.

7th – Reebok

The first of several well-known sportswear brands, Reebok is now a subsidiary of Adidas. As such, it is no surprise that it does not quite match its biggest competitors in terms of sponsorship budgets. Ten years ago, it would have placed higher on the list when it was the NFL’s “official apparel maker.” That particular torch has been passed to Nike, but the Reebok name still appears as a sponsor for several individual NFL teams. Reebok is also the main sponsor of the Portugal basketball team as well as countless individual track and field athletes.

6th – Adidas

Next in the list is Reebok’s sister company, Adidas. The brand sponsors dozens of soccer teams across Europe including Manchester United, Arsenal and Bayern Munich to name just a few. It is also official sponsor of the NHL and CHL. The brand has sponsored some of the most famous individuals in a range of sports, including Usain Bolt, Andy Murray, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Aaron Rogers.

5th – Puma

Yet another brand that is part of the Germany’s Adidas AG group, Puma is still a popular sub-brand, especially in mainland Europe and the Indian subcontinent. It sponsors cricket’s immensely popular Indian Premier League (IPL) as well as numerous megastars in the world of soccer and cricket.

4th – Samsung

The Korean electronics giant is an official partner of the International Olympic Committee, a relationship that started with the Seoul Olympics more than 30 years ago and has continued ever since. The organization also sponsors some of the most high-profile leagues and tournaments including MLB, NASCAR, La Liga and the PGA Championship. Samsung has taken the unique step of setting up its own sports division, called Samsung Sports, which fields its own teams in soccer, volleyball and eSport, as well as providing training and development facilities across the globe.

3rd – Coca Cola

Arguably the most famous brand in the world, Coca Cola is a prime example of just how powerful advertising and sponsorship can be in promoting brand awareness. The soft drinks giant has put its name to some of the biggest world sporting events across the years, including Olympic Games and World Cups in soccer, cricket and rugby. This year, it will be the official non-alcoholic beverage sponsor for Euro 2020 and last year it signed a multi million dollar three year deal with the English Premier League.

2nd – Red Bull

Back in the 1980s, Victor Kiam captured the imagination of TV viewers everywhere with his catchphrase “I liked it so much, I bought the company.” This is very much the spirit in which Red Bull approached Formula One. Red Bull Racing has become as much a part of the motor racing furniture as McLaren, Williams and even Ferrari since buying the Jaguar Racing Team from Ford 15 years ago. The following year they bought the cash-strapped Minardi team, rebranded it as Torro Rosso and the rest is history. It’s given the Austrian soft drinks company a unique position in one of the most lucrative and high-profile sports on the planet. Red Bull has extended its model of buying and rebranding teams to other sports, leading to the introduction of, for example, the New York Red Bulls in soccer, EC Red Bull Salzburg hockey team and the Red Bull eSports team.

1st – Pepsi

The biggest company of them all in terms of sports sponsorship might come as a surprise to some. Pepsi takes the top spot due to its immense marketing spending every year on sports sponsorship and its decision to focus on tournaments over individual teams. These are not just any tournaments, however. The company has deals with the NFL, the NBA and the NHL. It was also the main sponsor for MLB and MLS until the two leagues signed new sponsorship agreements with Coca Cola. Pepsi has not entirely ignored going down the team sponsorship route, though. At present, it has deals with several major US and international teams including the Buffalo Bisons NHL team and the Pakistan national cricket team.

Changing times, but the same old faces

There are, without doubt, plenty of changes in the air with regard to the way sport is funded and the companies that are involved. Tech firms and sports betting businesses definitely have a more important role in this smartphone age of live betting, eSports and the like. However, at the fundamental level, we can see that things have not changed so much as we might think. The biggest sporting events on the world stage and the global brands that sponsor them don’t really look so different to how they were 10 or 20 years ago.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.

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