Juve play home and away with sponsors

ROME - Juventus's management might be coming under fire for the team's on-field problems, but they have won plaudits from business experts for tackling a tough sponsorship market with an innovative home-and-away shirt deal.

The Serie A side announced on Tuesday they had signed a sponsorship deal worth 16 million euros for the next two seasons with the Betclick online gambling company for their black-and-white 'home' shirt.

The deal does not include rights for Betclick to have their brand on the Turin team's second-choice 'away' shirt, which they can sell to another sponsor.

"There haven't been any other sponsorship splits like this between different types of shirt, at least not in the Italian championship," Giorgio Brambilla of sport marketing consultancy firm SPORT+MARKT told Reuters.

"I think this move was dictated by market conditions," added Brambilla, the company's Marketing and Sales Director, Italy.

"Not many companies at the moment are able to invest 12 to 15 million euros in shirt sponsorship, even in a club with a big national and international name.

"Juventus have faced this situation in a creative, long-sighted way that should at least enable them to maintain their current level of sponsorship, if not increase it a little, as they still have part of their visibility to sell."

Juve, whose existing agreement with Fiat's New Holland that reportedly brings in around 11 million euros a season expires in June, are enduring their darkest period since they were relegated in 2006 for their part in Italy's matchfixing scandal.

The club, who declined to speak to Reuters about the deal, are out of European competition and the Serie A title race.

They are three points adrift of the Champions League qualification zone in seventh after losing 12 league game so far this season.

Nevertheless, Brambilla though Betclick had made a smart move by linking up with them.

"Juventus have had moments of great difficulty off the field and now they are having them on it, but they are still one of soccer's most important brands," he said.

"Teams like Manchester United and Barcelona also had difficulties in the past, but these clubs maintain strong support and are attractive to companies who want to attach their names to them.

"For Betclick the agreement will be a trampoline to national and international renown of the first order. Naturally, the ideal thing would be for them to be sole sponsors, but that requires a bigger investment."

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