When FC Barcelona and Manchester United meet in the UEFA Champions League final on May 28, all eyes will be fixed on the players—and consequently on the fronts of their jerseys, which are some of the most expensive billboard real estate per inch in the advertising world.

Barcelona, after years of stubbornly refusing to tarnish its iconic shirts with sponsorship, recently caved. In December the Spanish champion announced a record deal with the Qatar Foundation. Despite being a nonprofit, the Qatari educational organization has enough spare cash to invest $204.5 million over five years to place its name on the Catalan team's jerseys starting next season.

English champion Manchester United was forced to scramble for a new partner during the global recession after original sponsor AIG received a government bailout. Chicago-based Aon stepped in, though as risk managers and reinsurers, it peddles a product the vast majority of the team's local fans neither know nor care about.

The size and global nature of these deals reflect the power of soccer clubs as the world's most recognizable brands. Broadcast ratings for the UEFA Champions League outstrip those for the Super Bowl and are rapidly growing in the lucrative markets of the Middle East and Asia.

American teams are struggling to play catch-up. Six of Major League Soccer's 18 teams currently lack a sponsor. Doug Quinn, president of FC Dallas, one of the teams hunting for a commercial partner, wittily captured the unique nature of the opportunity on offer: "MLS is the only sport where you can go to the White House and hold up a jersey with a corporate name on it."

Getty Images
When FC Barcelona and Manchester United meet in the UEFA Champions League final on May 28, all eyes will be fixed on the players—and consequently on the fronts of their jerseys, which are some of the most expensive billboard real estate per inch in the advertising world.

Barcelona, after years of stubbornly refusing to tarnish its iconic shirts with sponsorship, recently caved. In December the Spanish champion announced a record deal with the Qatar Foundation. Despite being a nonprofit, the Qatari educational organization has enough spare cash to invest $204.5 million over five years to place its name on the Catalan team's jerseys starting next season.

English champion Manchester United was forced to scramble for a new partner during the global recession after original sponsor AIG received a government bailout. Chicago-based Aon stepped in, though as risk managers and reinsurers, it peddles a product the vast majority of the team's local fans neither know nor care about.

The size and global nature of these deals reflect the power of soccer clubs as the world's most recognizable brands. Broadcast ratings for the UEFA Champions League outstrip those for the Super Bowl and are rapidly growing in the lucrative markets of the Middle East and Asia.

American teams are struggling to play catch-up. Six of Major League Soccer's 18 teams currently lack a sponsor. Doug Quinn, president of FC Dallas, one of the teams hunting for a commercial partner, wittily captured the unique nature of the opportunity on offer: "MLS is the only sport where you can go to the White House and hold up a jersey with a corporate name on it."

Getty Images

Soccer Jerseys—and Pricey Billboard

Full Frontal Sponsorship
Full Frontal Sponsorship
When FC Barcelona and Manchester United meet in the UEFA Champions League final on May 28, all eyes will be fixed on the players—and consequently on the fronts of their jerseys, which are some of the most expensive billboard real estate per inch in the advertising world.

Barcelona, after years of stubbornly refusing to tarnish its iconic shirts with sponsorship, recently caved. In December the Spanish champion announced a record deal with the Qatar Foundation. Despite being a nonprofit, the Qatari educational organization has enough spare cash to invest $204.5 million over five years to place its name on the Catalan team's jerseys starting next season.

English champion Manchester United was forced to scramble for a new partner during the global recession after original sponsor AIG received a government bailout. Chicago-based Aon stepped in, though as risk managers and reinsurers, it peddles a product the vast majority of the team's local fans neither know nor care about.

The size and global nature of these deals reflect the power of soccer clubs as the world's most recognizable brands. Broadcast ratings for the UEFA Champions League outstrip those for the Super Bowl and are rapidly growing in the lucrative markets of the Middle East and Asia.

American teams are struggling to play catch-up. Six of Major League Soccer's 18 teams currently lack a sponsor. Doug Quinn, president of FC Dallas, one of the teams hunting for a commercial partner, wittily captured the unique nature of the opportunity on offer: "MLS is the only sport where you can go to the White House and hold up a jersey with a corporate name on it."

Getty Images
FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona
Sponsor: Qatar Foundation

In December the Spanish champs announced a five-year, $204.5 million deal with the Qatari educational organization starting next season.



*average annual amount paid by each company
Mikey Burton
FC Bayern Munich
FC Bayern Munich
Sponsor: Deutsche Telekom

German teams typically lack true global brand power, and eyebrows were raised over the size of this deal with the telecommunications conglomerate.
MIKEY BURTON
Liverpool FC
Liverpool FC
Sponsor: Standard Chartered Bank

American team owners persuaded this South African bank to pay three times as much as the previous sponsor, Danish brewer Carlsberg.
MIKEY BURTON
Manchester United
Manchester United
Sponsor: Aon

The English club made this deal with the Chicago reinsurer after losing its last sponsor, AIG, in the wake of the global financial meltdown.
MIKEY BURTON
Real Madrid CF
Real Madrid CF
Sponsor: Bwin

The Austrian betting site stepped in when the team’s previous sponsor, the Taiwanese electronics company Benq, went bankrupt.
MIKEY BURTON
AC Milan
AC Milan
Sponsor: Emirates

The Silvio Berlusconi-owned club shares the same sponsor as France’s Paris Saint-Germain, Germany’s Hamburger SV, and England’s Arsenal.
MIKEY BURTON
Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur
Sponsor: Autonomy; Investec

The innovative North London team persuaded a software company and an asset manager to sponsor, respectively, its league and cup matches.



**cumulative figure
Mikey Burton
Chelsea FC
Chelsea FC
Sponsor: Samsung

Financed by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, the club gained a reputation for neglecting sponsorship opportunities up until this deal.
MIKEY BURTON
Manchester City FC
Manchester City FC
Sponsor: Etihad Airways

This middling club became an instant global heavyweight when it was taken over by Abu Dhabi prince Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 2008.
MIKEY BURTON
Juventus FC
Juventus FC
Sponsor: BetClic

French bookies are barred from being domestic sponsors, so the gaming site lured Juventus—an Italian club whose past sponsors include Libya’s Tamoil.
MIKEY BURTON
LA Galaxy
LA Galaxy
Sponsor: Herbalife

The deal was struck, in 2007, to coincide with the signing of David Beckham. His arrival triggered the sale of 300,000 jerseys.



***figure varies because of team performance incentives

Mikey Burton
Colorado Rapids
Colorado Rapids
Sponsor: None

The MLS stipulates that $500,000 is the minimum price for shirt sponsorship—and the league’s current champion hasn’t found any takers.****



****that’s pretty sad
Mikey Burton