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Nissan has confirmed a four-year global partnership with the UEFA Champions League, including the UEFA Super Cup, replacing Ford as the car brand rep in the UCL sponsor list which includes MasterCard, PlayStation, Gazprom and Heineken, among others.

This agreement represents the Japanese manufacturer’s largest ever sponsorship deal and will establish Nissan as an official partner worldwide from 2014/15 to and including the 2017/18 seasons. The Champions League has a cumulative TV audience of over four billion a season.

“Innovating to excite is what Nissan does, and as partners with UEFA we are looking to introduce new ways in which to enrich the UEFA Champions League experience. Europe’s most prestigious football competition will be an important global platform for Nissan, and our aim is to show fans all over the world the excitement of both football and our cars. Both are created by amazing people who have a passion for what they do,” said Roel de Vries, corporate VP and global head of marketing and communications for Nissan.

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As an official partner, Nissan will have extensive rights to the matches, pre-match training sessions, content, media, hospitality, events and the UCL final. This tie-in is part of Nissan’s goal of becoming the top Asian brand in Europe by 2016. To do that, Nissan will have to overtake Toyota and Hyundai at No.2, and one big weapon is the British-built new Nissan Qashqai.

The original Qashqai was a huge success for Nissan in Europe, giving it presence in the Golf/Focus class that otherwise would have been hard to achieve with a conventional five-door hatchback entry. The crossover-shaped bet was repeated with the smaller Nissan Juke, which has spawned a raft of rivals including the Ford Ecosport, Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, Opel/Vauxhall Mokka, Honda Vezel (or HR-V) and the upcoming Volkswagen Taigun.

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“European growth is important to Nissan, and in UEFA we feel we have found the perfect partner to help us achieve our business goal of becoming the #1 Asian car manufacturer in Europe by 2016. We’re excited and very much looking forward to the new season kicking off at the UEFA Super Cup in Cardiff on August 12,” said Bastien Schupp, VP of marketing at Nissan Europe.

No official mention of the cost involved, but the sports marketing analysts estimate UEFA’s latest sponsorship packages cost more than 45 million pounds (RM244 million) a year.

Nissan is betting big on sports sponsorship – it also backs the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Olympic Teams GB and Mexico, Africa Cup of Nations, NCAA Football, Heisman Trophy and the Canadian Football League. Nissan GT-R ambassador Usain Bolt is known to be a football (and Manchester United) fan, too.