Arsenal are to sign a national record kit deal with Puma, according to the Daily Mirror.
The Premier League club will begin a five-year agreement with the German sportswear brand - worth up to UK£170 million - when their current contract with Nike runs to an end after the 2013/14 season. Adidas had long been touted to replace Nike, with the Mirror reporting the company had even submitted designs, while Liverpool apparel supplier Warrior had also shown an apparent interest.
Nike is thought to have explored renegotiations with Arsenal but could not meet the club's demands, and will concentrate on its partnerships with the likes of Barcelona and Manchester United as well as sponsorship of the England team, which it assumed after divesting itself of English soccer brand Umbro last year.
Puma is said to have comprehensively outbid its rivals in a Premier League record deal which eclipses Warrior's UK£25 million-a-year sponsorship of Liverpool and Manchester United's older long-term contract with Nike. If accurate, the reports serve as confirmation of a major about-turn in the one-time Tottenham Hotspur kit supplier's strategy. Last month, it announced the appointment of former Adidas and Helly Hansen man Björn Gulden as its new chief executive to complete a major overhaul of senior management.
In recent years, Puma had been moving away from sponsorship of major European club teams to concentrate on its deals in African soccer and Jamaican athletics, as well as endorsement deals with sprint legend Usain Bolt and soccer stars like Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Aguero.
Speaking to SportsPro in the summer of 2011, the then Puma marketing director Antonio Bertone told SportsPro: "We have a few decent European soccer squads and obviously the Italian federation is key but other than that African soccer and Jamaican athletics are the two major directions for us. They have been for over a decade. Many, many moons ago we decided that it's feudal to just try and be a third brand that looks like the other two brands [Nike and Adidas]."
Since then, however, the brand has retained its kit deal with the Italian national soccer team and signed a new partnership with Germany's Uefa Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund, while also completing smaller agreements with the likes of deposed Scottish giants Rangers. Following disappointing financial results last year, Puma now looks set to pursue this approach more aggressively.
For Arsenal, the deal will serve as vindication of a strategy which had identified 2014 as the start of a period in which their commercial revenues would rise sharply. The club recently confirmed a renewal of its long-term front-of-shirt sponsorship and naming rights deal with Emirates - a five-year extension worth UK£150 million, second only in the league to Manchester United's seven-year, US$559 million deal with Chevrolet.
Arsenal had entered into front-loaded sponsorship deals with Nike and Emirates in 2004 to secure funding for the construction of the Emirates Stadium.