Not Just a Boot Deal: The Commercial, Financial Importance and Future of Boot Deals for Football

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This may well be the third episode in this series but this must not be understood to mean that boot deals fall lower down on the priority list for agents to manufacture and for the commercial opportunities for a player. In reality, boot deals are arguably the most important sponsorship contract that a player will sign and that an agent will negotiate. It is also the most common. As I will go on to explain, usually all high-level professionals, even some semi-pro footballers, will have some kind of boot deal or arrangement during their playing career.

This may well be the third episode in this series but this must not be understood to mean that boot deals fall lower down on the priority list for agents to manufacture and for the commercial opportunities for a player. In reality, boot deals are arguably the most important sponsorship contract that a player will sign and that an agent will negotiate. It is also the most common. As I will go on to explain, usually all high-level professionals, even some semi-pro footballers, will have some kind of boot deal or arrangement during their playing career.

In this blog I will analyse boot deals and their true significance. I will aim to assess different clauses that can become a part of more complicated boot deals depending on the player that is being sponsored and the lucrative remuneration that can arise alongside it. These are of particular importance to agents to understand and ensure they achieve the best deal for their client. The blog will also outline some of the further extensions of boot deals that can become a part of a treasured boot deal for the top players.

What is a Boot Deal?

The term is fairly self-explanatory. Put simply, it refers to a deal that is made between a player and a boot manufacturer in order to supply the player with boots. This also often includes shinpads and, in the case of goalkeepers, gloves. Of course, as with almost all contracts in football, it can become far more complicated than this.

First and foremost, it is important to understand that boot deals span far across the world of football. The majority of players at a professional level will have a boot deal unless they have deliberately chosen not to, all will at least have been offered or approached for one. Even several semi-professional footballers will have a boot deal of some kind. This may be what is known as a ‘boot supply deal’ where, for example, one or two pairs of boots are provided per season free of charge but with no additional monetary fee paid to the player.

In top level football, however, these deals can be enormously lucrative as well as providing a new pair of boots every few weeks if the player so desires. Furthermore, and arguably more importantly, for a player it is vital that their agent finds a deal with a boot manufacturer that they are comfortable with wearing and can perform to the best of their ability in. This can also include ensuring their boots are customised to perfectly suit their performance. For example, James Milner had special support plates fitted into his boots to soften impact. Other examples include customised stud structures and specially personalised laces. These are all nuanced aspects of boot deals that can be negotiated and implemented.

The deals can be made via negotiation from the boot manufacturer with the player’s agent. However, more common is for a player’s agent to delegate this responsibility to a commercial team or lawyers that specialise in commercial contracts. The contracts themselves are complicated and can include an array of clauses such as performance-based add-ons on top of a fixed ‘base’ sponsorship compensation. This may include terms such as bonuses for televised appearances for the player’s club or country; the percentage of minutes they play per game; the category of the club for which they play for and whether or not they are competing in international and continental competitions such as the UEFA Champions League.

One point to note for boot deals is the concept of exclusivity which we analysed in last week’s blog. Some of the biggest boot-manufacturing brands will also have their own wider range of sports apparel, accessories and other equipment. This can create issues when boot deals cause unintended limitations to other commercial opportunities that a player might have. Namely companies such as Nike, Adidas, Puma, Underarmour and New Balance will include exclusivity clauses within boot deals that binds the player to a full ambassadorial role to promote not just the boots, shinpads and playing kit but also leisurewear and accessories from headphones to watches to backpacks (see last week’s blog). Agents must note this when they are negotiating these deals to ensure that, if the player does have broader obligations of exclusivity to the brand that is providing them with a boot deal, then they must be appropriately and sufficiently remunerated.

Exclusivity is an important factor in boot deals. Often there are disputes that result in percentage losses for players if, for example, they are playing for an Adidas sponsored club whilst in a boot deal with Nike. This gives them less financial leverage when negotiating a boot deal. However, for a player like Harry Kane who plays for club and country sponsored by Nike as well as having a Nike deal himself. This puts him in a great position to negotiate a higher compensation fee for his boot deal.

Some players avoid this problem and will oppose boot deals by choosing to be free from being contractually tied down to a singular boot-manufacturer. They would prefer to have the freedom of choice to wear whichever boots they like the most or may even design their own boot brand. Usually, the temptation of the financial reward of a boot deal is too strong but it has been known for players to prefer to opt out of a boot deal. The most well-known examples of this are Dani Alves and Mesut Ozil; the latter went on to create their own distinctive boot collaboration with Concave.

In this section we can see that boot deals can be separated into three ‘categories’ which I will summarise below:

  1. A supply contract:
    A common form of boot deal for youth or lower league semi-professionals. If we consider that a youth player or their parents must source around £250 per pair of top quality boots, this is a significant expense each year. Brands or the agents themselves will usually assist with this by providing supply contracts to distribute boots to upcoming players. This could be a good opportunity for agents to show the player what they can provide and to build a relationship. The brand may also be willing to include other bits of sports apparel such as tracksuits.

  2. Boots + Budget:
    The next step up also does not include a sponsorship fee for the player. Instead, players will be given complimentary boots as per a supply contract, as well as a non-cash budget for the brand. For exciting young players this may be between £5,000 and £10,000 to spend on the wider range that the brand sells from trainers to caps and other apparel. This type of contract may occur for a player who has signed their first professional contract or is playing in the middle divisions of national football.

  3. Full Sponsorship Boot Deal:
    For the top players, this kind of deal involves a cash fee as remuneration on top of free boots and a higher budget to spend with the manufacturer. The value of this sponsorship deal depends on the categorisation of the club for which the player plays which are ranked as a, b, c, and d. The categorisation varies according to the exposure the club receives. For example, when Mesut Ozil was at Real Madrid, they were competing in one of Europe’s top leagues, on television every week and competing in the Champions League. They were an obvious category A club. This was the same when he moved to Arsenal although since Arsenal are now no longer in the Champions League they have become a category B club. This can ultimately affect the transfer of players between clubs as it could cause a large financial loss to the player. For example, a category A club player may have a contract for £2million annually from their boot deal but if they move to a category B club, as per the terms stated in their contract, this may be halved or even quartered! Agents should be aware of this when considering whether a transfer is the right option for their client.

The graphic below shows the distribution of boots and hence, boot deals, across the English Premier League:

A Financial Boost

As mentioned in the previous section, boot deals can be lucrative, particularly so for the top players with the greatest public presence and commercial acumen. These top-end boot deals incorporate the image rights agreements that we discussed last week and will include clauses for players that bind them to appearing in photoshoots, doing personal public appearances, posting on social media and other brand activations. Brands are willing to invest significant sums into these contracts to have the biggest names in football donning their boots in globally televised football games. The biggest boot deals (per annum) are shown in the graphic below and I have provided a summary of the notable top-four beneath:

  • The £23million-a-year that Puma agreed to pay to Neymar to convince him away from Nike is the world record for a boot deal. It was, and still is, an eleven-year contract which has provided Neymar with long-term financial comfort. Part of this deal was Neymar’s own boot line named the Future Z range, a personalised collaboration that some of the world’s biggest players will have the opportunity of engaging with. Neymar publicly spoke about how Puma had appealed to him due to the legacy of players such as Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona as well as Brazilian compatriots, Pele and Eusebio; who were all major ambassadors of the Puma brand.

  • Lionel Messi is second with an £18million annual deal with Adidas and was the first footballer to collaborate with their boot sponsor to form a sub-brand, namely Adidas Messi. It is the same form of collaboration as the now worldwide iconic Air Jordan brand and may reap the same rewards once Messi has retired. The Argentinian seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was also the first footballer to sign a lifetime contract as part of their boot deal.

  • It may surprise some that Cristiano Ronaldo, AKA CR7, is third on the list with a £15million fee per annum with Nike. However, his lifetime deal is valued at an enormous £780million and he was Nike’s third athlete to sign such a deal following the decent company of Lebron James and Michael Jordan.

  • Finally, Kylian Mbappe has signed a £140million deal with Nike over ten years. As a young player with years ahead of him, most likely spent at the very top of football, he is positioned to be the face of Nike, particularly once CR7 has retired.

As we can see from the above examples, boot deals of this magnitude are often long-term deals as this provides great financial security to the players and attracts the biggest names to these brands. It would be an impossible risk and unfeasible investment for any smaller brand but the biggest world-renowned brands that can afford to commit such a large sum of money commit themselves to these players to help keep themselves at the top of the industry.

In these cases, there are also often collaborations between the player and the manufacturer that will release a range that is directly affiliated with and usually named after their top endorsed athletes. As well as their usual release of new boots every year or so, these collaborations will be uniquely designed and promoted and royalties will be paid directly to the player as part of their deal.

The Future of Boot Deals

I believe and predict that the future of boot deals is altered from the modern situation we currently see. It makes sense to me that more and more players will move away from the contractual obligations that arise with boot deals. In the modern era, footballers have become celebrities and influencers and can develop their personal brands through social media and otherwise. The ability of players to grow, develop and promote their own personal brand is significantly restricted by signing a boot deal with a single brand.

Players like Alves and Ozil may slowly become more of the norm by removing boot deal contracts and giving themselves more freedom. The biggest names will instead create their own brand and enter into agreements with manufacturers. For example, Mesut Ozil’s M10 brand now has a contract with manufacturer, Concave, in order to design and sell his own range of boots. A consequence of this may be that brands offer larger sums for boot deals to convince players to stay but in the age of personal brands, it will most likely make more social and financial sense for the biggest players to go their own way through their personal brands. Rather than being contractually obliged to always wear a single brand in all of their apparel and accessories, they will be able to express themselves and their personal brand freely.

Do you recognise any of these player brands below?


Boot deals are the most common form of off-pitch opportunity for players. They are a form of commercial deal that almost all professional football players will have during their career. It is vital for agents to have an in-depth comprehension of different clauses, important points to note, potential hiccups and unique extensions that arise with boot deals. If managed correctly, they can be a significant source of income for the player and should be regarded with great value and importance. However, the future of boot deals may look slightly different and instead manufacturers may strike agreements with personal brands of the biggest players in order to release a personal range without forcing them to engage with other contractual clauses which restrict them.

It is also important to note that whilst boots are an important aspect of a sports manufacturer’s business, they are not their biggest income generator. Companies such as Nike, Adidas, Puma, Underarmour and New Balance make the most financial reward from selling trainers which are worn by everyone around the world, including non-football fans. However, boot deals are struck to use footballers as promotional celebrities in order to push out the brand and simultaneously generate further sales of trainers and their other apparel.

by Dr. Erkut Sogut & Jamie Khan

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