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Sponsors flock to Spain's national soccer team

By Al Goodman, CNN Madrid Bureau Chief
Spain's Banesto bank and American carmaker Chevrolet are two of the national team's newest sponsors.
Spain's Banesto bank and American carmaker Chevrolet are two of the national team's newest sponsors.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Spain is ranked number one by FIFA and is the defending European champion
  • Unfortunately it has yet to finish higher than fourth place in a World Cup
  • The team already has raked in $80 million from sponsors and TV rights
  • Football in Spain traditionally dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid clubs

Madrid, Spain (CNN) -- Spain is a perennial underachiever at the World Cup. It's been in the competition 12 times before yet never finished higher than fourth place, and that was in 1950.

But this time in South Africa could be very different.

Spain heads into this World Cup as a firm favorite to win. It's ranked number one by FIFA and is the defending European champion, having beaten Germany to win Euro 2008.

And sponsors are flocking to the Spanish team like never before.

Video: Spain's sponsorship battle
RELATED TOPICS
  • Spain
  • FIFA World Cup

"Until 2008, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona were seen as the only big football showcases here. Now Spain's national side is even a bigger draw," says Jesus Samper, president of Grupo Santa Monica Sports, which manages the Spanish team's rights for Spain's football federation.

When Spain recently beat France -- in Paris -- the game had a 48 percent rating on Spanish television, with 9 million viewers, almost half of everyone watching TV at that time, Samper said.

World Cup Special

The team already has raked in $80 million from sponsors and TV rights, Samper said. "It's the first time that the Spanish team have really the opportunity to win the World Cup, and we want to be part of it," said Rami Aboukhair, marketing director of Spain's Banesto bank, which is a new sponsor of the team.

The bank has launched a new credit card -- red like the team's jersey. Clients who spend a certain amount on the card can get an official team jersey for free.

The bank in February and March also collected more than a billion dollars in new deposits on the promise they would earn 3 percent interest now, but 4 percent if Spain becomes World champion, Aboukhair said.

Banesto estimates it will cost the bank about $13 million in extra interest payments --- to reach the 4 percent mark -- if the team wins it all in South Africa, Aboukhair said.

Another relatively new sponsor is Chevrolet, a well-known brand in America but which is practically brand new in Spain.

Chevrolet has just a 2 percent market share in Spain, but hopes to break into the top 10 brands by sales locally, in part through its association with the team, says Joaquin Torres, Chevrolet's public relations manager in Spain.

TV ads show stars of the team, in their red jerseys, driving Chevrolets, which the company is not giving away for free.