Nissan replaces Ford as Champions League sponsor

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MUNICH -- Nissan will replace Ford as the automotive sponsor of the Champions League, Europe's most prestigious club soccer tournament, as part of the Japanese automaker's goal of ousting Toyota as the top-selling Asian brand in Europe.

Nissan today said it has agreed to a four-year partnership with UEFA, European soccer's governing body. It is the automaker's largest sponsorship deal to date.

"European growth is important to Nissan and in UEFA we feel we have found the perfect partner to help us achieve our business goal of becoming the No. 1 Asian car manufacturer in Europe by 2016," Nissan Europe's marketing chief, Bastien Schupp, said in a statement.

Nissan did not say how much it paid for the sponsorship. Sports marketing analysts estimate UEFA's latest sponsorship packages cost more than 45 million pounds ($75 million) a year, according to Marketing Week magazine. The publication said Nissan offered a "sizeable fee" to UEFA before Ford started re-negotiating its 21-year Champions League sponsorship.

Nissan's agreement with UEFA will establish the Japanese automaker as an official Champions League sponsor starting in 2014-2015 up to and including the 2017-2018 seasons.

Ford said last month that it was ending its sponsorship of the tournament. Ford's sponsorship will end with the Champions League final in Lisbon on May 24, which is expected to be viewed by more than 300 million people in more than 200 countries.

"Europe's most prestigious football competition will be an important global platform for Nissan," said Roel de Vries, Nissan's global marketing head, in the statement.

Nissan must pass Toyota and Hyundai to become Europe's top-selling Asian brand. The automaker expects its recently launched second-generation Qashqai compact SUV/crossover and an upcoming compact hatchback to significantly boost its European sales volume.

Toyota was the No. 1 Asian brand in the EU and EFTA trade bloc last year with vehicle sales that rose nearly half a percent to 518,546 units for a 4.2 percent market share, according to data from industry association ACEA.

Hyundai brand at No. 2 had sales of 422,930, down 2.7 percent from the year before, for a 3.4 percent share. Nissan was close behind, with sales of 422,213, a drop of 2.5 percent, for a 3.4 percent share.

You can reach Paul McVeigh at pmcveigh@crain.com.


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