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The Business Impact of the Inter Milan and AC Milan Rivalry: An Business Comparison of Two Giants.

Roger Hampel


Football rivalries have always been a huge part of the sport, with none more captivating than the one that exists in the heart of Milan, Italy. The city's two heavyweight clubs, Inter Milan and AC Milan, have a long-standing feud that transcends the confines of the football pitch. But, their rivalry isn't just about the matches, trophies, or bragging rights; it's also a tale of two businesses in constant competition. In this article, we delve into the business side of this riveting rivalry, analyzing its impact and implications on both football and financial fronts.

A Tale of Two Brands

Inter Milan and AC Milan, both established over a century ago, are more than just football clubs. They represent powerful brands with an extensive global reach. Over the years, they've leveraged their brand power to negotiate lucrative sponsorship deals, secure high-value broadcasting rights, and sell a plethora of merchandise, contributing to their substantial revenue streams.

Despite their shared city and stadium, the San Siro, each club has crafted a distinct brand identity. Inter Milan, with its global outreach program "Inter Campus," has positioned itself as a socially responsible brand. On the other hand, AC Milan, with its long-standing tradition of nurturing young talent, is seen as a hub of football development.

The Commercial Race

In the age of commercialization, the rivalry between Inter Milan and AC Milan extends to their competition for lucrative sponsorships and partnerships. Both clubs have attracted top-tier sponsors over the years, with global brands like Pirelli for Inter and Emirates for AC Milan investing millions.

Moreover, they've both been successful in securing massive broadcasting rights deals, both domestically and internationally. This has not only increased their revenues but also expanded their global fan bases, making them more attractive to potential sponsors.

The Impact of Chinese Investments

The recent decade witnessed a significant shift in both clubs' ownership structure, as Chinese investors took control. In 2016, Suning Holdings Group purchased a majority stake in Inter Milan, and a year later, Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux, led by Li Yonghong, acquired AC Milan.

These investments have seen mixed results. While Inter Milan has enjoyed relative stability and success under Suning, AC Milan initially grappled with financial instability, leading to the takeover by the Elliot Management Corporation. Despite these challenges, both clubs have managed to leverage these investments to bolster their squads and compete at the highest level, contributing to their overall brand value.

Digitalization and Fan Engagement

Inter and AC Milan have embraced digitalization, using it as a tool to engage with fans worldwide. They've invested in enhancing their digital platforms, social media engagement, and even launched their own OTT platforms. Such initiatives have helped the clubs maintain direct contact with fans, gather valuable data, and open new revenue streams, demonstrating how the rivalry fuels innovation.


The semifinal showdown between Inter Milan and AC Milan promised not just an extraordinary football spectacle but also a battle of revenues, commercial power, and financial might.

Revenue Rankings: The Battle off the Pitch

In terms of total revenues according to the Deloitte Football League rankings, Inter Milan led with €308 million, ranking 14th, while AC Milan lagged slightly behind at €265 million, positioned at 16th. However, the difference was more noticeable in broadcasting revenues, a crucial financial element in the modern football era. Inter Milan outshined AC Milan with €177 million against the latter's €146 million.

On matchdays, another significant revenue source, Inter Milan again led the charge with €44 million compared to AC Milan's €32 million. However, it was the commercial revenues where the two found themselves neck-and-neck, each raking in €87 million.

The Wage Factor and Transfer Market

The wage-to-revenue ratio, a critical financial health indicator for football clubs, placed AC Milan in a better position with 64%, against Inter Milan's higher than desirable 82%. A ratio exceeding 70% often signifies potential financial concerns, and for Inter Milan, this was a red flag that required careful management.

In the 2022/23 transfer market, both clubs had a negative balance, with Inter Milan at €-34.5 million and AC Milan just slightly more at €-37.4 million, indicating their aggressive approach to strengthen their squads for the ultimate European glory.

The Shirt Sponsorship Showdown

Despite its financial concerns, Inter Milan had managed to secure deals with several high-profile sponsors, including Nike (€10 million, renewing at €25 million/year), Lenovo (€5 million), and eBay (€5 million). However, its deal with DigitalBits fell through due to the latter's bankruptcy, leaving a void in its sponsorship portfolio.

Contrarily, AC Milan boasted a more robust sponsorship lineup. It had lucrative deals with Puma (€30 million), Emirates (€14 million), Bitmex (€5 million), and Wefox (€7 million), giving it a total of €56 million, nearly triple of Inter Milan's €20 million.

The Positive Loop: The Ultimate Goal

Both teams were vying for what is often referred to as the 'positive loop' of financial sustainability in football: more trophies leading to more fans, which in turn attract more sponsors, increasing revenues that can be invested in talent acquisition, consequently leading to more trophies.


The Inter Milan and AC Milan rivalry is as much about business as it is about football. Both clubs constantly strive to outdo each other, not just on the pitch but also in the boardroom. They've managed to leverage their brand power, attract significant investments, and capitalize on commercial opportunities, all while keeping their fans at the heart of their strategies. This intricate intertwining of sport and business is a testament to the ever-evolving landscape of football, making this rivalry a fascinating case study for the Football Business Journal's readers.


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