Globally, Premier League clubs remain prime marketing attractions and revenue magnets. In Deloitte’s latest Money League report, nine of the top 20 ranked teams were Premier League clubs and, cumulatively, the the five biggest Premier League clubs on the rankings earned over $1 billion in commercial revenues, including sponsorship deals.

But while multi-million dollar partnership deals with Premier League clubs appear to be obvious, even if expensive, marketing home-runs, measuring the returns are not so straightforward. “Sponsorship is not a precise science…it’s very hard to isolate the effect of a sponsorship deal,” says Simon Chadwick, professor of sports enterprise at Salford Business School and former editor of the International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship. “Correlation is much more evident between price discounts and sales—they’re tangible and it’s easy to account for correlation. But while sponsorship deals are very good for raising awareness, enhancing brand recall and generating eyeballs, the precise effects of sponsorship are subject to more considerable debate.”

Pricey partnership deals with Premier League clubs are also often criticized as coming at the expense of local soccer leagues. It’s an argument that Chadwick says has some merit. “If we take any of the deals going to the Premier League, effectively that’s a leak from local economies. [Local leagues] will benefit more if the money was spent locally rather than globally.” For their part, several local soccer leagues are struggling or in decline mainly due to perennially poor organization and a lack of professionalism which has eaten away at brand value and hobbled fan interest. To make matters worse, these leagues face the stark reality of competing with the Premier League for local audiences.

Yet, even though no soccer league on the continent can come close to rivaling the wealth and reach of the Premier League and so are much less attractive propositions, fractions of the amounts spent on these Premier League partnerships will prove transformative for African soccer economies. Watt estimates regional partnerships between African brands and Premier League clubs can be priced at up to £5 million ($6.4 million) annually. In SportPesa’s case, its sponsorship agreement with Everton is the most the most lucrative in the club’s 140-year history with the betting company paying £9.6 million per year through to 2022.

But despite the scale of planning and spending that African brands put into sponsoring Premier League clubs, key aspects of these deals are often scuttled by the long-standing travel difficulties that Africans often face. “A lot of times, brands run promotions and competitions but [local] winners of hospitality packages at Premier League clubs are unable to get visas,” Watt says.

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