An increasingly popular strategy for winning new fans and selling merchandise is to hire a favorite son with his own loyal following. Japanese imports like Hidoshi Nakata (Bologna) and Shinji Ono (Feyenoord) have helped their European clubs hawk souvenirs and attract Asian tourists. Through the end of last year, midfielder Junichi Inamoto (left) has helped English team Fulham earn $3.7 million in merchandise sales and television rights in Japan.
The Grand Tour
Spanish superstars Real Madrid flew to Asia last summer on a publicity tour, shortly after signing David Beckham (above), the game's highest-earning player and Asia's favorite footballer. The team posed for gaggles of screaming fans, beat some lumbering local teams—and flew home more than $12 million richer, thanks to record sales of team jerseys and to fans like the 44,000 in Tokyo who paid $27 each to watch practice.
Li Tie, Phone Home
Chinese cell-phone company Kejian paid $3.2 million to put its name on the jerseys of English Premier League club Everton through the 2003-04 season. Kejian doesn't sell products in Britain, but Chinese consumers love Everton's mainland-born midfielder Li Tie (below, left). For a New Year's Day game last year, 360 million Chinese watched Everton take on Manchester City, which boasts its own mainland star, defender Sun Jihai. Never before had so many people in one country watched a league soccer match.
Temples of Commerce
Manchester United reckons 16 million—or nearly a third—of all its supporters live in Asia. So, in 2000, the club opened its first Asian store, in Singapore, hawking everything from player figurines to cell-phone straps. Crosstown rivals Man City now have shops in China, while European clubs AC Milan, Barcelona and Juventus have each opened boutiques in Tokyo.