Real Madrid signed a four-year deal with Microsoft that is reportedly worth $30 million and includes a new digital partnership. That’s a quarter of what the club paid to sign star Gareth Bale in 2013.
Microsoft posted a teaser video prior to the press conference inviting viewers to watch the live announcement from Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and Microsoft vice president Orlando Ayala from Santiago Bernabéu, Real Madrid’s home.
Surprisingly, naming rights don’t seem to be included in the partnership despite Microsoft Spain president Maria Garana’s claim that Microsoft and Real Madrid were discussing changing the 60-year-old Santiago Bernabéu name. After a $514 million stadium renovation was announced this summer, Garana told Punto Pelota magazine: “We are working on a sponsor. We are on with it. At best the stadium will have a name added to it if we can find one.”
Since it’s apparent that Microsoft won’t be the sponsor, Emirates, the official sponsors of Real’s jerseys, has emerged as a front-runner to be granted naming rights.
This would not be Emirates’ first soccer stadium naming rights deal. The airline signed a $235 million deal with the Arsenal F.C. in November 2012, extending its official jersey sponsorship for another five years and naming Arsenal’s London stadium Emirates Stadium until 2028. Other sponsors have combined naming rights and kit sponsorships, as with Manchester City’s 10-year $627 million deal with Etihad Airways.
One question remains: What will make this Microsoft-Real Madrid partnership unique? Real Madrid’s arch-rival F.C. Barcelona has a $25 million deal with Intel that allows the brand to cleverly hide its logo inside Barcelona kits. The logo occasionally appears during games when players raise their jerseys in celebration or just to wipe the sweat off their foreheads.
Will Microsoft have a clever branding strategy for Real Madrid similar to their Barcelona one? Will it try again for naming rights? Could it be looking to one day sponsor the entire league, similar to its $400 million deal with the NFL? Only time will tell.