The money in European football has grown continuously over the last several decades. As big-money sponsors become involved, fans wonder whether or not it will change the game.
At the moment, fans of Italian football around the world are considering to what extent these types of wealthy sponsors have altered the fabric of the sport.
Let’s take a look at how Italian sponsors compare with the sponsors of some other European leagues:
Online casino and betting sponsors have become a big factor in the English Premier League. Just last year, Crystal Palace took the step to become the latest team to partner with a betting company.
They joined Burnley, Fulham, Leeds United, Newcastle United, Southampton, Wolverhampton and West Ham United on the list of EPL teams with betting sponsors.
Sponsoring major football teams is a simple way to reach new audiences, far simpler than learning how to win online casino games like the ones many of these betting companies and online casinos offer.
As you will see, the majority of teams that have gaming sponsors are not teams at the very top of the league table like Liverpool, Manchester City or Manchester United.
While having so many betting sponsors doesn’t necessarily change how the game is played, these wealthy sponsors are able to provide smaller teams with the financial power to improve the quality of players they can afford.
This has the potential to level the playing field a bit and make the competition for the title more exciting.
In some European football leagues, team sponsors change nearly every season. The Bundesliga, however, has far more continuity between teams and their sponsors.
This emphasis on loyalty rather than trading up for bigger sponsors has an impact on how fans perceive the teams and the companies that support them.
VfL Wolfsburg is the most extreme example of this phenomenon. The team grew out of a sports club for Volkswagen factory workers who lived in the newly built city of Wolfsburg, and the two have remained inextricably linked since its creation. This moves it beyond a simple business relationship to one more rooted in community.
Also unlike many other leagues, the Bundesliga has kept mainly German sponsors. Alongside Volkswagen, major sponsors include Postbank, Mercedes-Benz, specialty chemicals company Evonik and window and door manufacturer Kömmerling.
Having mainly German sponsors may limit how much money a team can make from the sponsorship deals, with the exception of the automotive giants of course, but it also prevents foreign companies from being able to influence the league.
Serie A is no stranger to big-money sponsors, but unlike the EPL, for example, their biggest sponsors come from a wider range of industries.
We can see this variety in the sponsors for some of the top teams in the league. For example, Juventus is sponsored by Jeep and Cygames, A. C. Milan by Emirates, Inter Milan by Socios and Suning, S.S.C. Napoli by MSC and Amazon and A.S. Roma by DigitalBits.
Just between these five teams, there are a number of different industries represented, from automobile manufacturers, airlines and cruise lines, to video game developers and blockchain networks and even one of the biggest retailers in the world. These big-money sponsors could have a huge impact on the game.
Not all changes will happen on the field. Inter Milan’s recent move away from Pirelli to a sponsorship deal with blockchain company Socios will have some interesting effects on fan experiences.
The company has plans to introduce a digital token for fans that offers them “the chance to influence the club.” While this seems like fun news, it could have negative consequences.
If it is possible for a fan to purchase a large number of tokens, then it could allow wealthy fans to control the teams to an extent.
It also has the potential to alienate older and less tech-savvy fans who will either not be interested in digital tokens or be unable to access them or understand their purpose.
At such an early stage, it is impossible to say what kind of an effect this might have on the team and on the league in general if it becomes more widespread.
Sponsorship deals for major sports often reflect economic trends. The increase in gaming and tech sponsors across the European leagues demonstrates how important those two sectors are to the economy.
However, whether or not these big-money sponsors can change the leagues they invest in depends on many other factors like competition, tradition and league regulations.