Though Germany's Bundesliga may not always be considered one of the world's top divisions, when it comes to signing up companies to put their logos on jerseys, the Germans are at the forefront.
Don't throw that jersey -- it's worth millions!
German soccer is world class -- at least when it comes to jersey sponsoring. In exchange for pulling on advertisement-laden jerseys this season, over 90 million euros ($1.23 million) will flow into the 18 Bundesliga teams' coffers.
"One of the most successful Bundesliga sponsors is Volkswagen in Wolfsburg," said Stephan Schröder of the international trade journal Sport und Markt. "The other is Deutsche Telekom, which is sponsoring Bayern Munich."
Each Bundesliga team has between 15 and 20 sponsors, but it's the sponsor with its name on the jersey that gets the most attention -- and has to shell out the most money, according to Schröder. Currently, Deutsche Telekom pays the Bundesliga's top rate by writing a 17-million-euro check to Bayern.
More than just a jersey
Munich's goalkeeper Oliver Kahn
"In exchange, Bayern Munich offers their main sponsor quite a bit more than just some print on the jersey," Schröder said. "For example the sponsor have the chance to advertise with the team at conferences and can take advantage of the popularity of players like Michael Ballack and Oliver Kahn."
But not everyone can be as lucky as the reigning Bundesliga champions. Second place in the sponsoring race goes to Borussia Dortmund and their deal with the energy company e.on, whose 10 to 12 million euros should help the financially struggling team. Arminia Bielefeld, FSV Mainz and Eintracht Frankfurt, on the other hand, receive a miserly 2 to 2.5 million euros for the front of their shirts -- even though they're just as big as what the strikers in Munich and Dortmund are wearing.
But not all hope is lost for the teams on the lower rungs of the sponsorship ladder. A stellar season can mean added income.
It's worth 17 million euros to the Deutsche Telekom to be associated with the Bundesliga's top team
"All the Bundesliga contracts have stipulations on basic sums that the teams can plan on," Schröder said. "But when a team, such as Werder Bremen two years ago, wins the championship and the German cup in the same year the jersey sponsor also pays bonuses, which can be very lucrative for the clubs."
Jägermeister leads the way
A liquor distillery in the north of Germany paved the way to today's jersey sponsoring opportunities. For a mere 160,000 deutsche marks (about 82,000 euros), Günter Mast got a 14-centimeter (5.5-inch) drawing of a deer on the front of then-Bundesliga team Eintracht Braunschweig's shirts in 1973. The stricter advertising rules of the day wouldn't allow the drink's name, Jägermeister, to be printed on the players' jerseys.
From these modest beginnings that the Bundesliga became Europe's sponsorship leader.
Each Bundesliga team has between 15 and 20 sponsors
"When jersey sponsoring is taken as the sponsorship ruler to judge the leagues, the Bundesliga comes in first with some 90 million euros, then comes either the English or Italian league, both of which get around 60 million. That's a big difference," Schröder said. "In this regard, Germany or the Bundesliga is bit more professional and farther along in development."
Less money from other sources
Only the top foreign clubs can even come close to making the sponsorship deals made in the Bundesliga. English champions FC Chelsea were recently rumored to have made a record-breaking contract with the South Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung, but even that wasn't enough to take over at the top, according to Schröder.
Juventus Turin cashes in on two jersey sponsors
"No, Chelsea is not first, it's Juventus Turin," he said. "But they do have two jersey sponsors, one for the league and one for the Champions League matches. If you can believe the press, they're getting about 20 million euros."
It may well be a case of making the best of a bad situation. As German clubs earn less and less from the sale of broadcasting rights -- especially in comparison with other leagues -- they have found sponsorship deals to be the best way of getting there hands on the needed cash.