Latest Soccer Deals a Sign of Changing Times

March 25, 2024 Latest Soccer Deals a Sign of Changing Times

Not too long ago, the thought of Germany’s national soccer team wearing anything but Adidas gear would have been unthinkable. Similarly, someone suggesting that the French professional soccer league should carry the name of the company behind Le Royal Cheese would have been laughed out of the room, if not the country.

Yet last week saw the signings of agreements that will put German footballers into Nike kits and label the top flight of French soccer as Ligue 1 McDonald’s.

While the latter deal has spurred the expected snarky comments across social media in France, and the former has caused slightly more serious consternation in Germany, the response to non-domestic companies attaching themselves to these sports institutions is far more muted than it would have been in the not-too-distant past.

The reasons for that are varied, starting with a wider acceptance of foreign brands in places that once tenaciously guarded their home territories and promoted their local companies and products as superior to all others. While French cuisine is still exalted, it is no longer a scarlet letter for a French citizen to admit to occasionally visiting the Golden Arches, as McDonald’s presence in 1,150 French towns and cities, serving two million meals a day, attests.

Importantly, it is the desirable under-40 consumer segments that are most interested in foreign brands, foreign consumer lifestyles and global advertising, making rights holders decisions to partner with international companies even easier as they seek to build fandom among younger generations.

It is also reasonable to assume that fans and consumers are more knowledgeable about the economics of sports and recognize the necessity for rights holders to make the most advantageous sponsorship deals that they can, even if the partner does not check all the ideal boxes.

Who would begrudge the 6.8-million-member German Football Association, which is responsible for all levels of the sport across the country and most recently reported a $4.5 million deficit, opting for a new deal that is estimated by local media to be worth double the current one? (Nike is said to be paying $108 million a year to supply the DFB from 2027 through 2034 under the terms of its new contract.)

So while nationalism unfortunately still has a role to play in politics and government, its influence in marketing, business and sports is waning—opening the doors to likely more strange-bedfellow partnerships.