Bundesliga remains top for shirt sponsorship - report

MILAN (Reuters) - Germany’s Bundesliga has widened the gap over the English Premier League as Europe’s top division for shirt sponsorship revenue despite the economic downturn, a report said on Wednesday.

Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery celebrates his goal during their Champions League match against Manchester United in Munich March 30, 2010. REUTERS/Thomas Bohlen

The report by sports consulting group StageUp, released exclusively to Reuters outside Italy, showed that total shirt sponsorship revenue across the five biggest European leagues has dropped by 2.6 percent to 365 million euros (318.7 million pounds) this season.

However, the revenue drop was less than the double-digit fall reported in overall corporate communication spending.

This is partly because of the larger media exposure of top football teams and the longer duration of shirt sponsorships, which are the backbone of clubs’ commercial revenues.

“Despite the global financial crisis, shirt sponsorships in Europe’s five top soccer divisions retain a great appeal for investors,” StageUp said.

Bundesliga clubs have generated an average of 6.3 million euros each from shirt sponsorship this term, up 5 percent on the previous season, against a Premier League drop of 10 percent to 4.8 million.

“Bundesliga remains at the top...mainly thanks to the lucrative contracts signed by Bayern Munich, Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund,” StageUp said.

The betting and energy sectors are now outpacing finance as top shirt sponsors.

The energy sector has invested a total of 33.8 million euros in four German clubs this season, while Bayern Munich will receive a boost from the extension of their contract with Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile.

The betting sector, despite being banned from sponsoring shirts in Germany, has increased its overall presence by more than a third across Europe.

The Premier League has suffered from the crisis in the financial sector, the main sponsor of English clubs.

However, the debt-laden English top flight could buck the trend next season, after clubs including Manchester United and Chelsea signed even more lucrative deals.

Manchester United -- the second biggest earner behind Bayern Munich -- signed a new four-year shirt sponsorship deal with U.S. insurance broker Aon Corp, reported to be worth 23 million euros a year.

Italy’s Serie A remains third, with Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan the only Italian clubs to see an increase.

AC Milan are likely to enter the top five clubs next season, StageUp said, when they replace betting group bwin with Dubai government-owned airline Emirates, which is investing 60 million euro over four years.

Spain’s La Liga comes in fourth but with the biggest revenue increase in percentage terms, followed by France’s Ligue 1.

Editing by Justin Palmer