Global energy drinks giant Red Bull has taken a minority stake in English second-tier soccer club Leeds United.

Red Bull will add Leeds to a multi-club network that already includes four clubs across four different countries.

In addition, the Austrian company will also become Leeds’ primary front-of-shirt sponsor from the 2024-25 season.

Oliver Mintzlaff, chief executive for Red Bull’s corporate projects and investments arm, has said: “We are delighted to be an important element and partner of Leeds United. A club that is certainly one of the biggest in England and has a rich and successful history.”

Why it matters

Multi-club ownership has grown significantly in soccer over the last few years and the trend isn’t slowing down. According to research by international professional services firm Deloitte, over 70 multi-club owners are now thought to be in existence, more than double the amount only seven years ago (28).

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Now Red Bull, which has become a prominent soccer club owner and was an early adopter of the multi-club model, has invested in a UK sporting property for the first time.

Leeds – relegated from the top-tier Premier League in 2023 – join a multi-club network that includes RB Leipzig in Germany, Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg, New York Red Bulls in the US’ Major League Soccer, and Brazil’s Red Bull Bragantino.

In other sports, the company also owns two teams in motor racing’s Formula 1, (Red Bull Racing and a sister outfit), as well as ice hockey club EC Salzburg.

Leeds’ current owners, 49ers Enterprises (the investment arm of the San Francisco 49ers American football franchise), only completed a takeover last June, for £170 million ($216.3 million) after agreeing a deal with previous owner Andrea Radrizzani’s Aser Ventures company.

In November, it was reported that 49ers Enterprises also sold a minority stake in the EFL Championship side to US-based private equity firm Ackerley Partners.

Commenting on Red Bull’s deal with Leeds, Conrad Wiacek, head of analysis at GlobalData Sport, said: “Red Bull has finally got into English soccer in a very direct way, becoming shareholders and major sponsors of Leeds United.

“With Leeds missing out on promotion to the Premier League, this partnership is a timely one as no doubt it will ease some of the financial pressure Leeds will be under heading into next season, allowing them to retain at least some, if not all, of their squad in a bid to gain promotion.

“From a Red Bull perspective, this is only a minority investment so Leeds fans will not see the club renamed or rebranded in any way. This does, however, give the brand a foothold in the English market, having developed a strong presence in Germany, Austria, and the United States through various franchises.”

Across its various teams, Red Bull has operated a successful business model focused largely on scouting and an integrated philosophy.

The company’s multi-cub model is arguably the most visible at the elite level in Europe, with both Leipzig and Salzburg competing regularly in the UEFA Champions League.

The details

Red Bull has signed a multi-year contract to serve as Leeds’ shirt sponsor, in addition to the investment.

As well as this, Red Bull becomes the club’s exclusive energy drink partner, with branding to feature inside the club’s Elland Road stadium and during “the club’s official media appearances.”

Leeds will not, however, be rebranded or have their name or logo changed, the club said in a statement.

The club’s 2023-24 primary front-of-shirt partner was smart home systems installer Boxt.