Puma has confirmed that it signed a five-year endorsement deal with Olympique de Marseille (OM), one of the most popular French football clubs, starting from the beginning of July 2018 and putting an end to the club's long partnership with Adidas. L'Equipe reported that the German company would be paying nearly €15 million per year, but the company declined to provide details on the financial arrangements.
The agreement comes after the club was acquired by Frank McCourt, a U.S. businessman, with ambitions to win French and European leagues under a program dubbed OM Champion. Jacques-Henri Eyraud, president of OM's board, said in a statement that Puma had agreed to the largest commercial deal in the club's history. He was particularly impressed with Puma's proposals to spread the OM brand in international markets, and by its support for OM Champion.
Adidas previously announced that it walked away from negotiations with OM, apparently because the numbers didn't stack up for the company. Adidas said it had to come to the conclusion that no agreement could be reached, despite its “dynamic and ambitious” proposals.
The Adidas group had very particular ties with OM since its players have been wearing three stripes for about forty years – with a brief interruption in the mid-nineties, when they wore Mizuno and Reebok. The club previously belonged to Bernard Tapie, the former majority shareholder of the Adidas Group. Tapie was the club's owner when it won the Champions League in 1993. OM was later sold to the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, another former shareholder and chief executive of the Adidas group. When he died in 2009 the club remain in the family's ownership and under the supervision of Margareta Louis-Dreyfus, the widow of Robert Louis-Dreyfus. She held on to OM for a surprisingly long time – perhaps out of loyalty for a club that had been her husband's personal (and very costly) interest.
OM has been described as the club with the second-largest number of supporters in France. The reported price tag of €15 million would pale in comparison with the £75 million (€86.7m-$93.3m) per year forked out by Adidas for its ten-year partnership with Manchester United or €155 million per year that Nike reportedly agreed to pay for Barcelona FC from 2018. Then again, OM's exposure hasn't been comparable at European level in the last years, either.
Owned at a majority by a French company, the Kering group, Puma already has several leading European clubs under contract, from Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund to Leicester FC, the current Premier League title holder, and two French clubs, the football club Girondins de Bordeaux and the Stade Rennais Football Club. The deal is part of the group's investments to strengthen the performance arm of its business, after Rihanna helped to raise demand for the brand's fashion products. OM's somewhat defiant reputation, as the feisty arch-rival of Paris Saint-Germain, makes it a neat fit for the Puma brand.