By Keith Weir
(Reuters) - German sportswear company Puma will become the kit supplier to English soccer club Arsenal from next season in a deal worth more than 30 million pounds ($50 million) a year to the Premier League leaders.
Puma has ousted U.S. group Nike which has provided Arsenal's red and white shirts for the past two decades.
The deal with Arsenal shows Puma's determination to re-establish itself as a core sports brand under new CEO Bjoern Gulden after moving more into lifestyle and fashion.
"Arsenal represents a major commercial and marketing opportunity to reinforce Puma's credibility as a global sports brand," Gulden said.
Puma, which supplies kit to German soccer club Borussia Dortmund and national teams including Italy, said it was aiming to establish itself as the clear number-three soccer brand behind market leaders Adidas and Nike.
Puma, majority owned by French luxury goods company Kering, warned in November that 2013 net profit would fall far below the 70 million euro ($96 million) figure in 2012.
Gulden denied that Puma had overspent to win the Arsenal deal.
"Our analysis shows this is a good deal for us," he told Reuters. "We are convinced that this is the best deal that we could do. It's the team that fits us, it's a good commercial deal and will bring a lot for our image."
Puma has also acquired the rights to produce other branded Arsenal merchandise that will be sold to fans around the world.
Financial details were not disclosed but Puma said the deal was the biggest ever for both itself and Arsenal.
In 2012, Arsenal signed a contract renewal with airlines Emirates for shirt and stadium sponsorship worth 150 million pounds over five years.
Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis said the club had held talks with several sportswear companies before choosing Puma.
"They are a substantial company with the kind of scale that a club like Arsenal needs as we reach out to our global fan base," he told Reuters.
Arsenal were also impressed by Puma's focus on the club rather than juggling several big name partnerships.
"We'll be one of their primary partners," Gazidis said. He also told the news conference that the club expected manager Arsene Wenger to stay on at the club.
The Puma deal is no surprise after news of it leaked on social media late last year. However, Arsenal fans are likely to press the club to spend heavily before the player transfer window closes at the end of the month to boost the team's push for a first trophy since 2005.
Nike remain the kit suppliers to Manchester United and Manchester City.
The Nike deal was worth 38 million pounds for United in 2012-13, including the club's share of profits from merchandise sales. United and Nike are in negotiations on a new deal. ($1 = 0.6034 British pounds)
(Editing by Toby Chopra)
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