Manchester City's 2007/08 season started with new owner Thaksin Shinawatra splurging £30 million by adding eight relatively high-profile players to the first team squad. The main source of the funds? The Thai billionaire businessman's bulging wallet. Sure, the teams sponsorship agreements helped, but secondary shirt sleeve sponsorship, which would have added another stream of income, hadn't even been considered. In fact, the idea hadn't even been considered in the entire soccersphere.
City had spent three of the four previous Premier League seasons finishing in low mid-table positions (i.e., two to four places above the relegation zone). The team was badly in need of an influx of new blood if it was to avoid a similar fate, or worse, in the upcoming season. This meant that Thaksin would have to dig deep in to his pocket to get the ball rolling on the required turnaround. A decade down the line, it's fair to say that the initial investment has paid dividends. Three domestic cups, two domestic league titles, and one new owner later, the 2016/17 Citizens look a whole lot different.
Soccer aficionados will argue long into the night about the means that facilitated the Citizens meteoric rise from mid-table meddlers to top-tier competitors. They will no doubt call in to question the source of the funds and cite the rules of financial fair play, and ponder whether the transition would have been possible without Shinawatra and subsequent owner Sheikh Mansour bankrolling the process. One thing that cannot be questioned, however, is that their plan - both on-and-off the field of play - has been beautifully executed. The Blue Moon has well and truly risen, and City's groundbreaking shirt sleeve sponsorship agreement with South Korean manufacturer Nexen Tire could well shine a new light on the world of sports sponsorship and propel the team even further forward.
Next season, a new rule will come in to play allowing Premier League teams like City to have a secondary sponsor on the sleeves of their shirts. And it won't be long before we see other EPL sides strike shirt sleeve sponsorship deals as they try to keep-up with their cash-strapped and commercially savvy Mancunian counterpart. We can certainly envisage our super Spur, Erik Lamela, sporting a Tottenham strip with a secondary sponsor displayed just below his shoulder.
And as we gaze in to our crystal ball, we foresee a future where shirt sleeve sponsorship deals become commonplace right across the soccersphere. Foreign teams, keen to compete with the likes of City and Spurs in European competition, will soon start searching for such commercial opportunities of their own. So too will teams from other nations intent on tilting the axis of world soccer from Europe to a different continent.
So then that begs an important question. How long 'til we see other Opensponsorship soccer stars like Atletico Madrid's Koke and Juventus' Paulo Dybala sporting strips with sleeve sponsors on them? A bigger budget - derived from shirt sleeve sponsorship deals - would give their teams more purchasing power and enable them to attract the best talent. This would ultimately increase their chance of success. City have, after all, proved that cunning commercial craft goes hand-in-hand with lifting trophies and raising a global profile. And as the team becomes more and more successful, their sponsors are exposed to a greater number of potential clients. It's a cyclical, symbiotic and lucrative relationship.
Sports sponsorship is a big, big business, particularly in the Premier League - the most watched league in the world. City and their shirt sleeve sponsors Nexen both stand to make a pretty penny from the deal. Nexen - like City's Thai owner Thaksin Shinawatra ten years ago - rightfully expect to see a return on their investment. A shirt sleeve sponsorship agreement with such a successful club will no doubt cover the South Korean company's outlay many times over. Their brand awareness will be significantly boosted both in Britain and abroad, leading to an increase in sales.
The benefits that shirt sleeve sponsorship agreements will bring both the sports teams and the brands they partner with are innumerable. Simply put, shirt sleeve sponsorships make sense: they are a win-win in a game that is designed to be win-lose. Perhaps Nexen read our "7 Reasons to Use Sports Sponsorship" as a brief before partnering with the boys in blue, in which case, Cheonmanaeyo! (You're welcome!)
And with the Philadelphia 76ers becoming the first NBA team to strike a shirt sponsorship agreement in May last year, it won't be long before other sports follow suit. The NBA will allow the 76ers to wear StubHub's logo on their jerseys starting in the 2017/18 season. Savvy business when considering that the move is expected to generate at least $100 million annually for the league.
"I've always been jealous of the English Premier League teams. NASCAR figured it out a long time ago," 76ers CEO Scott O'Neil said when he was interviewed after completing the deal. "For some reason, the big four sports in North America have not. I think it's an unbelievable opportunity." Opening up shirt sponsorship space is a big leap for the NBA. Opening up secondary shirt sleeve sponsorship spots would be a slam dunk. MLS, NFL, MLB and NHL take note, and sports fans...watch that space! Secondary sponsorship is coming to a sleeve near you soon!