Commercial sponsoring of sports is rarely seen in a positive light. Whether it’s the UFC octagon covered in Monster Energy Drink logos or Boxers having questionable partnerships that take up a lot of visual space – they’re hardly revered.
However, football’s controlled use of sponsors has led to not only an acceptance of this form of advertising but has birthed some legendary partnerships.
1. Newcastle Brown Ale
Who better to sponsor Newcastle Football Club than Newcastle’s very own Newcastle Brown Ale. The partnership lasted only six years, from 1994 to 2000, but it remains to be one of the most iconic, memorable sponsorships of any club.
It does help that legends such as Ginola and Ferdinand played in the shirt, but 21 years on Newcastle’s sponsorship with their local Brown Ale remains firmly in the memory of football fans.
2. Bayern Munich T Mobile
It would be difficult to picture a Bayern Munich football shirt without seeing T… written on the front. German telecommunication company, T Mobile, has been Bayern Munich’s shirt sponsor since 2002.
In these 19 years, Bayern was in an era of absolute dominance of the German division, and has performed well in Europe too, winning the Champions League in 2012 and 2019 since the partnership began.
It’s one of the longest shirt sponsorships in football, and this helps sum up Bayern’s approach to football: consistency.
3. Arsenal O2
From 2002 to 2006, Arsenal repped one of the best looking sponsors of all time: a clean O2 was placed on their Nike kit.
Of course, during these years, O2 was the sponsor whilst the invincibles season, with the likes of Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira leading Arsenal to the Premier League title.
The O2 sponsor helps define the greatest moment in Arsenal’s history, and one of the biggest achievements in world football: remaining unbeaten for an entire season.
Everything was inch-perfect, from the shirt design and logo to the players on the pitch.
4. Liverpool Carlsberg
Carlsberg is without a doubt the greatest shirt sponsor in Liverpool’s history, in terms of aesthetics, longevity, and perhaps even memes.
The shirt defines a generation of great players, such as Torres and Gerrard, and was of course the Istanbul shirt in which they performed one of the greatest ever Champions League final wins.
The Carlsberg logo seemingly fitted perfectly with the central Liverpool crest, and a central reebok logo, creating a clean and memorable shirt.
Of course, it’s even more significant now, with alcohol being increasingly difficult to find sponsor deals, and is outright banned in some cases.
2017/18 was the first Premier League season in which no teams were sponsored by booze and is likely a trend that will continue considering the backlash against Carling and Carlsberg’s partnerships with the FA.
5. Barcelona Unicef
Football clubs use shirt sponsors for extra revenue, in which they can receive a lot for essentially what is passive income.
However, between 2006 and 2011, Barcelona shirts donned Unicef, a global children’s charity that provides humanitarian aid.
This was a really classy move from Barcelona to support a charity instead of accepting money from an alcohol company or similar.
Beyond the charitable element to this sponsor, the Barcelona team during this time was perhaps the greatest ever football team.
Pep Guardiola led the team into playing not only an innovative playing style but one of the most dominant possession-based teams we have ever seen, that happened to birth Messi, arguably the greatest ever player.
Unicef remains a prominent form of the symbolic imagery of this period of Barca dominance.
6. Inter Milan Pirelli
Nobody would expect to get emotional at the departure of a sponsor, but when Pirelli announced that its 26-year long sponsor with Inter Milan is coming to an end, it really did feel like an end of an era.
The Italian tire manufacturer has been a staple of the Inter jersey since 1995, with many fans have never seen a kit with anything else written on it. During this time, Inter has won many Serie As, as well as a Champions League trophy.
Of course, the Italians like their style, and Pirelli had a very aesthetically pleasing logo that almost underlined the Inter crest.
During this time, the blue and black striped shirt hasn’t changed design much either, showing how consistent the club has been with its iconic shirt.
The ending of the contract, due to Inter wanting to improve its terms, signals how money changes football.
Of course, the sponsor was for money in the first place, but there’s no doubt that chopping and changing sponsors each year depending on the highest bidder is a little less comforting.
It is Socios that have taken over Pirelli, with a fairly radical change to the blue and black stripes too, being more of an abstract pattern.
Still, it’s fitting that the Inter-Socios partnership has led to “$inter” being on the front of the new jersey.