It’s hard to come by a football shirt without a sponsorship logo blazed across the front of it. These deals have been around since the ’70s, and whilst we are all too familiar with the top clubs and their sponsors, it was the smaller clubs that instigated the deals in the first place.
Back in 1976, Kettering town led the way with their sponsors, ‘Kettering Tyres’, but unfortunately shirts featuring sponsorship logos’ didn’t get off to a good start. Clubs tried to introduce them, only to be met with resistance from the FA and subsequently fined. The dust did eventually settle and shirt sponsors started popping up at every club.
Since shirt logos were introduced we’ve seen many trends with sponsorship. From electronic manufacturers, like JVC and Sharp. To car and automotive-based ones: Chevrolet, Ford, Pirelli, and Continental. Various alcohol companies, Carlsberg, Newcastle Brown Ale, and Chang to name but a few. Airlines from low-budget types to more fancy ones such as Emirates and Etihad plus Financial services and mobile phone providers.
Gambling companies are the current trend. Despite much being made about gambling addiction and money woes, it hasn’t stopped the rollout. Although companies now heed the warning signs, advising punters to gamble responsibly, it doesn’t stop the hoards of adverts that are shown during TV ad breaks and around the grounds. Efforts are being made to try and help people with a gambling addiction, but it’s a catch-22 situation when a company is telling you to bet but do it responsibly.
Recently Forest Green Rovers became the first professional club to call for a ban on gambling advertising and sponsorship in football. There is also a government review debating a ban which is due to conclude later this year.
On the flip side the EFL has reportedly ruled out a ban, due to the amount of money gambling sponsorship brings in. It’s easy to see why, when you realise eight Premier League clubs and nearly half of the Championship teams have a gambling company as a shirt sponsor. Yet, the ultimate decision lies with the government. If the ban is enforced it could have a massive impact upon clubs.
If the government does put a block on gambling advertisements and sponsorship, they will find themselves in the pile with tobacco companies. Whilst we’ve never seen a huge amount of tobacco companies as shirts sponsors in the U.K, they were rife on TV and advertising hoardings. 2005 saw the ban on tobacco take effect, but in a turn of events, this didn’t affect the popularity of using E-cigarettes as shirt sponsors.
Whilst E-cigarettes are hailed as a ‘healthier option to smoking, it has been considered as poor taste, but it hasn’t stopped many teams over the last 10 years from taking up deals. Teams including Derby County, Birmingham City, and Rangers are just a few. Amidst criticism and despite the product containing nicotine, it has yet to result in a ban.
On that note, clubs do seem to have become more conscious regarding sponsorship for more sensitive sponsors such as E-cigarette companies, especially for children kits. Charities have become a popular choice and usually ones that are close to the club or local area. This brings about the argument that children’s kits sometimes have a better sponsor than the adult version.
Ipswich recently announced that Ed Sheeran is their new shirt sponsor, whilst not completely unknown; Scottish band ‘Wet Wet Wet’ have been known to sponsor kits. Could this spark another trend in sponsorship within the arts and entertainment industries? The thing with Ed Sheeran is that it not only appeals to adults but children alike, plus he is an Ipswich fan, so it’s a bit of a win-win. Furthering this Ipswich’s current sponsor ‘Magical Vegas’ gifted their shirt front to ‘Carers Trust’ a charity dedicated to supporting unpaid carers, again this isn’t completely unusual but it could become more commonplace.
In recent years there has been a push to be healthier and a lot being mentioned about taking up healthy lifestyles. Could we see a push towards targeted sponsorship or a government-backed initiative? Maybe big-name gym or fitness brands, healthy eating companies, and the like.
So where does sponsorship go next? There’s a trend for kits without sponsorship logo’s and with advertising so prominent these days, do we even need to see a logo on a kit. Many of us agree that kits look better without them. The design is cleaner and clearer. Would kit sales rise if the sponsor was omitted? It certainly makes you think!
In other parts of the world, it’s common for kits to appear without sponsor logos. Lots of South American clubs don’t have them and more and more Italian and Spanish clubs are without shirt sponsorship too. Could this be an indication of what’s to come?
Nonetheless, shirt sponsorship deals remain lucrative. In recent years we have seen a rise in sleeve sponsors; Arsenal with ‘Visit Rwanda’, Everton with ‘Angry Birds’, and Leicester with ‘Bia Siagon’. This could pave the way for replica shirts featuring smaller logos, leaving the front plain. Plus most of us complain that logos quickly go tatty, fade and peel off, surely the days of shirt sponsors are numbered.
In recent years ‘PaddyPower’ pulled a big stunt with Huddersfield Town. Seemingly releasing a shirt with their logo strewn right across the front in a sash display. Eagle-eyed fans were quick to notice it breached advertising regulations, only for ‘PaddyPower’ to announce that it was a fake, and they were in fact ‘un sponsoring’ the shirts. This type of stunt is likely to have gained more attention than if they had gone down the usual route.
Whatever direction sponsorship goes in next, the reality is they are likely to have to find alternative and creative ways to bolster advertising. In today’s society, social media reaches far more people and countries than the average person wearing the latest kit will ever do.
An interesting viewpoint is whilst many shirts are as overpriced as they are, how long will it be before clubs figure out that some of us might be willing to pay a little extra to get a shirt without a logo? In a world full of choices, what would likely please most fans is to have two shirts available, one with a logo and one without.
With all that being said, sponsorship logos over time have become iconic in their own right. Liverpool and their Carlsberg sponsor springs to mind as does Arsenal with their JVC shirts. Kits are not only identified by a specific design but sponsor logos end up standing out too. Whether it’s to mark a successful time in that club’s history, or the design becoming a cult classic. Theirs no doubt for many, sponsorship logos end up as an important part of the overall design.
Perhaps the issue with sponsorship logos these days is that clubs need to think about it morally and choose wisely, but when huge amounts of money are at stake, the one who pays the most always wins. The future of shirt sponsorship certainly looks interesting.
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