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Shirt Sponsorship with NPFL Clubs - What's Really the Challenge?

  • Why are most NPFL clubs wearing Blank Jerseys without Shirt sponsorship?

  • Are Corporate Sponsors Deriving Substantial Benefits from NPFL Clubs' Shirt Sponsorship

  • A case study of Rivers United, the only NPFL club with shirt Sponsorship from Eunisell

  • NPFL Clubs sitting on armchair" waiting for corporate brands to approach them first.

We all know the records, the tremendous revenue clubs around the world make from Advertisement on their jersey, popularly known as Shirt Sponsorship. Man-U receive from Chevrolet £53m a year,  Barcelona receive from Rakuten £47m, Arsenal from Fly Emirates £30m, Bayern Munich from T-Mobile £27m...

In Africa, Zamelex receive from Al Helal Wal Negma £6m a year for Shirt Sponsorship; South Africa PSL club, Cape Town City fc receive from SportsPesa £5.5m a year... Then, you may not help but ask:

Why are most NPFL clubs wearing Blank Jerseys without Shirt sponsorship?

It is a wonder really for a country of over 170 million people, with unrivalry passion for footballl sport. There could be two major reasons most NPFL clubs are overlooking great revenue opportunity in Shirt Sponsorship.

But to get a clear answer, you may just re-phrase the question this way: Are Corporate Sponsors Deriving Substantial Benefits from NPFL Clubs' Shirt Sponsorship/Advertisement? The answer may not be a blanket NO. Then, it will not be fair to clubs like Kano Pillars, Enyimba and recently Plateau United and MFM who have growing fans followership and media atrention.

Corporate sponsors want among other objectives, to gain substantial exposure from the human billboards club players and fans provide in Shirt Sponsorship. For a sponsor to be interested in a club's shirt advertisement, the club should a least regularly fill  its home stadium with spectators and attract significant (measureable) media attention.

Let's take  a case study of Rivers United, the only NPFL club with shirt Sponsorship from Eunisell. Lets measure by the rule of thumb, what Rivers United may have delivered to Eunisell from the Shirt Sponsorship deal of the last two years, assessing them with the five performance or Exposure Criteria

1. Continental Competitions Exposure: Rivers United was placed second in NPFL 2015/16 Season and participated in Caf champions league. However, they didn't even get to the group stage to make any significant impression on African football fans.

2. Spectators Match Attendance: River United could not attract an average of 15,000 spectators in their home matches, required to enhance the Shirt advertisement partnership with Eunisell. They only get an average of 8,000 spectators in a 35,000 capacity Amaseimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt. Too few for reckoning!

3. Human Billboards Street Exposure: You hardly see any fan wearing Rivers United replica jersey on streets of Rivers state, talk less of Nigeria as a whole. Most fans prefer purchasing English Premier League clubs' replica Jerseys which are readily available everywhere in the state and Nigeria. Even fans who may want to buy River United Jersey do not know where, which sports shop to get.

4. Mainstream Media Exposure: Only 23 matches involving River United were broadcast by SuperSports in the past three seasons. Most terrestrial television and radio stations in Nigeria does not have the right to air the league. Nigerian daily sports newspapers would rather publish photographs of European stars or Nigerian players in Europe. The NPFL is rather given a small portion on the inside back pages.

Of course, River united are not title contenders in last two. Seasons and are not popular among fans. So they hardly show up in newspaper publications.

5. Social Media Exposure: River United has been participating fairly well on social media. They actively use their twitter, facebook and instagram handles to engage the fans. However, they are yet t. hit 300,000 cumulative followers in all their social media accounts. So the club cannot maximize the potential of Social media to enhance their partnership with Eunisell.

Eunisell are not deriving much value in their Rivers United Shirt Sponsorship. But the chemical company may see the partnership more as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) thing, rather than pure advertisement. And their association with Rivers United let them enjoy a lot goodwill in their local business environment. And that's important, especially in a volatile environment like Rivers state.

Yet, it may not be entirely right to allude that Corporate brands do not advertise in NPFL clubs shirts, because they may not derive much (measurable) values.

Clubs like Kano Pillars may score high in four of five assessment criteria listed above, yet they are playing this season with a blank jersey, without shirt Sponsorship. Kano record an average of 18,000 spectators in their home games. There are a lot of fans who clad the replica jerseys of Kamo pillars in the entire northern Nigeria and some them are even in Lagos.

 Kano pillars social media followers are over 500,000, the club is very active on twitter, facebook and their club website.

Kano pillars is currently on top of NPFL Standing table, if they continue as title contenders for the rest of the season, they are likely to enjoy more mainstream media exposure. So you may then ask, why are they playing the season without a shirt Sponsor?

What about Enyimba, perhaps the most popular club in Nigeria, always a title contender and always playing continental competitions. Although, their home stadium is under reconstruction and they have to play in UJ Esunne stadium calabar, yet they still attract an average of 12,000 spectators in both their home and away matches. So then, why is Enyimba playing with blank jersey without Shirt Sponsor?

In the case of Kano Pillars and Enyimba,  both clubs can deliver lots of value for Brands. The challenge is what we refer in marketing as "sitting on armchair" waiting for corporate brands to approach them first.

The reason most of these clubs don't get into aggressive marketing is because they are funded by their state government, therefore, they do little or nothing to commercialize their operations. What we found out is most clubs with brand advertisement on their shirts is they either have a Sport marketing agency or advertising agency working on their behalf in this regard. For instance, Zamalek has Ahram's Advertising agency working with them; Cape Town City FC has Kick-Off South Africa, a Sports marketing agency working with them.

The shirt sponsorship deal between Rivers United and Eunisell was actually brokered by OJ Sports Public Relations Agency.

We therefore recommend that NPFL clubs engage a sport marketing or advertising agency to work towards ensuring they have Shirt Sponsorship each season.

GreenHunters Sports International, a sport marketing Agency in Nigeria is open to negotiations with any NPFL club interested in Shirt Sponsorship with brands around the world. Contact Us: Call or WhatsApp  +234(0)809 877 2556 or Email:

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