Sponsorship in football is a hugely lucrative business, with global brands willing to pay millions of pounds per year to be associated with the world’s greatest game.
Success on the pitch has historically generated increased interest from sponsors, although recent evidence suggests that things may be changing.
Manchester United have failed to lift a trophy since winning the Europa League in 2017, but the impact on their sponsorship income has been negligible.
TeamViewer, adidas, Kohler, Chevrolet and DHL are amongst a plethora of big brands currently linked with the Premier League giants.
United have also worked hard to connect with a younger audience – a point highlighted by their partnership with Japanese entertainment company Konami.
‘Gaming is in our blood’, as the CEO of SpinPlay said in a recent Best Casinos interview, and the same ethos appears to be in United’s make-up.
In addition to their deal with Konami, the Red Devils also get a healthy kickback from EA Sports’ exclusive image rights deal with the Premier League for the FIFA series.
Despite their trophy drought, United’s financial gravy train shows little signs of slowing down judging by their recent financial returns.
While the club’s sponsorship income dropped marginally for the three months to September 30, their overall commercial revenue actually rose by eight percent.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to the club accounted for just one month of the figures released, highlighting how on-pitch performances may not be overly crucial to commercial success.
Although the 36-year-old only has a few years left at the highest level, his pulling power from a sponsorship perspective remains undiminished.
He signed a two-year contract with the option to extend for an initial fee of £12.86 million. A further £6.85m may be paid in performance-related bonuses.
His eye-watering £385,000-per-week salary bumps up United’s overall outlay, but the potential impact on sponsorship income is likely to be staggering.
The Portuguese has around 500 million followers on social media and his signing announcement attracted 12.5m likes on Instagram.
Regardless of whether United win any trophies in the short term, sponsors will be falling over themselves to grab a piece of the pie.
Fans clamoured to buy Ronaldo shirts when he returned to Old Trafford, helping the club break revenue records for sales.
Forecasting the overall impact Ronaldo could have on United’s commercial revenues is an impossible task, but it is fair to say it will be significant.
From a sponsorship perspective he is now THE name in professional football, with his so-called rivals currently plying their trade in Ligue 1.
Lionel Messi was Ronaldo’s biggest competitor in the sponsorship stakes when he was at Barcelona, but he no longer has the same appeal after joining Paris Saint-Germain.
That leaves the way for United to cash in on having Ronaldo in their ranks over the next few years, and winning silverware is unlikely to impact their collective appeal.
Things may change when Ronaldo hangs up his boots, although he appears to be showing no signs of slowing down just yet.
The news that Zlatan Ibrahimovic may extend his stay with AC Milan highlights why Ronaldo may keep the cash tills ringing at United for another few years.
The 40-year-old is reportedly close to agreeing a contract extension that would keep him with the Serie A giants until 2023.
Given Ronaldo’s fitness levels, there is no reason why he couldn’t match Ibrahimovic by playing at the top level well beyond his 40th birthday.
If that happens, it is highly unlikely that on-pitch success will make much difference to United’s attraction to sponsors over the next few years