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Euro 2024: Brands make big business with team jerseys

Insa Wrede
June 28, 2024

Major brands like Adidas and Nike spend hundreds of millions of euros each year to outfit football teams with jerseys. Is it worth it? And has a jersey giveaway by German online company Check24 hurt their business?

A crowd of fans decked out in various German soccer jerseys, flags and hats; some are drinking beer, some are waving flags
Fans want to show their support — whether in an official Adidas jersey, or one given away by Check24Image: Dennis Duddek/Eibner Pressefoto/picture alliance

Soccer is an massive money machine, generating billions and billions in profits. And the moneymaking starts with team jerseys, a lucrative source of income. Major brands are willing to spend a pretty penny to increase their brand recognition, improve their image and win over new customers.

Sports companies like Adidas and Nike spend hundreds of millions of euros each year for the right to provide players with their jerseys. In exchange, company logos appear on the shirts. The brands hope this will allow them to sell more of their other sports products.

Adidas vs. Nike

"Jerseys are thought of as the main article that fans outfit themselves with. That's why they play the biggest role in the marketing campaigns of clubs and national teams," said sports marketing consultant Peter Rohlmann. And no other national team has jersey sponsoring contracts as big as Germany, he told DW.   

German sporting goods company Adidas has sponsored the German Football Association (DFB) for more than 70 years. But Nike was recently willing to dig far deeper into its pockets than Adidas to pay for the honor, so from 2027, the US competitor's logo will emblazon the German national team's jerseys.

Football is big business at Euro 2024

It's unclear just how much Nike paid to get the contract, with the DFB's website stating that both sides wished to keep that information confidential. But DFB Managing Director Andreas Rettig said Nike made an offer the association couldn't refuse.

Media outlets like the German business daily Handelsblatt reported that Adidas had been paying the DFB €50 million ($53.6 million), and that Nike offered twice that amount. 

Clubs get far more than national teams

Rohlmann said even more is paid to professional clubs. Adidas, for instance, is reported to have forked over for €120 million for a 10-year contract extension with Manchester United. The company paid even more to Spanish side Real Madrid: a cool €150 million. Those higher sums reflect the fact that the clubs play at least four times as many games each year than the national teams, meaning the jerseys are seen on the pitch far more often.

But, said Rohlmann, "no sporting goods manufacturer will ever be able to recoup that sum in sales." The main motivation is image enhancement, especially when one considers that a national team always plays under the threat of exiting a tournament early.

Fans in a stadium wearing various German national jerseys, two with the new pink away version hold up a scarf emblazoned with the word 'Deutschland' in black, red and gold letters
Adidas says it has never sold more away jerseys than this year's pink editionImage: Gerhard Schultheifl/Jan Huebner/IMAGO

"It's questionable whether sponsoring deals are really worth it for companies," said Markus Voeth, a business professor at the University of Hohenheim. "Direct sales are rarely generated. Only about 12% of those polled look primarily for brands that sponsor the Euro tournament when they purchase goods or services."

"The partnerships we saw between producers and the big associations 15 years ago failed to live up to expectations," Adidas boss Björn Gulden told the weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper on June 9.

"Outfitters are all losing money if you look at it in purely commercial terms. At the time, everybody thought jersey sales would go through the roof… but they didn't go through the roof," said Gulden. "It makes sense. Let's assume Germany wins the European championship. Is the whole world going to run out and buy Germany jerseys? No, it's mainly Germans."

Third parties sneaking into the game

The German price-comparison platform Check24 isn't a Euro 2024 sponsor. But without paying a cent to the DFB or organizer UEFA, the company has managed to take part in the tournament anyway.

Its idea for getting a foot in the door? Just give jerseys away. Instead of the official DFB logo, there's the familiar German eagle, the logo of sporting goods manufacturer Puma — also a German company — and that of Check24, writ especially large in the colors of the flag, right across the chest.

Soccer fans in various German jerseys smile as they cheer and wave
Check24 is no longer offering free jerseys, but now they're being sold on eBay for a more than the official Adidas versionImage: Dennis Duddek/Eibner Pressefoto/picture alliance

Anyone who wanted a jersey simply had to offer up their personal data: name, address, email and telephone number. After that, they could get a jersey in whatever size they desired. Check24 ended the giveaway after it hit about 5 million orders.

Check24 founder Henrich Blase told the magazine Finance Forward that the campaign was the biggest the company had ever engaged in. The estimated cost? About €100 million, including production, logistics and shipping.

What did Check24 get out of it? Everyone in Germany is now talking about the company, and its app has been the most downloaded in the country for weeks. Not only that: Check24 has gathered plenty of personal data. Now the company can either use that data itself, or sell it on to other companies, said Rohlmann.

Adidas sales solid nevertheless

Whether Check24 cut into Adidas's sales is questionable. According to polling conducted by the University of Hohenheim, one in five respondents said they intended to buy a national team jersey.

So far, the most popular version remains the official white Adidas home jersey. Right behind it is the pink version, "the best-selling away shirt in the history of all Germany jerseys," Adidas spokesman Oliver Brüggen told German broadcaster ZDF. Sold out for a time, demand for the new kit was clearly far greater than even Adidas anticipated.

This article was originally written in German and translated by Jon Shelton.