How Many Advertisements is Enough?

By | February 17, 2015

Here’s a challenge for you: try watching a professional game of soccer where a club team has no advertisements on its shirt. No matter what team you watch and cheer for: whether its Samsung for Chelsea, Fly Emirates for Arsenal, Real Madrid & AC Milan, Jeep for Juventus or even EasyJet for Luton F.C. (a third division English team), you will always find an advertisement in a team’s jersey at the professional level.

How did this come about? It all began in Rockingham Road, Kettering. Until 1976, no club had ever used any advertisements on their jerseys. That was when Southern League Kettering Town signed a deal with Kettering Tyres and agreed to put the sponsor’s name on the team’s shirts for their match against Bath City on January 24 1976. However, a few days after the decision, the FA immediately ruled out displaying sponsors on shirts and forced chief executive Derek Dougan to remove the slogan. Trying to work his away around the ban, Dougan changed the slogan to “Kettering T”, insinuating that the T represented “Town” instead of “Tyres.” This clever move did not work, and the FA threatened him with a £1,000 fine until he finally removed the slogan.

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First soccer shirt to ever have an advertisement

Soon after, other clubs pressed the FA to remove their ban on advertisements on shirts, and in 1977 the ban was released. At first, teams had to limit the size of the advertisement, so as to not anger fans and to comply with BBC standards for advertising in their broadcasts. However, over the years, there has been a significant change to how advertisements are displayed on team’s shirts, and in some leagues, there are no restrictions at all, such as the shirt in the picture below.

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Corinthians shirt during the 2009 season

This jersey is the one used by Corinthians in Brazil during the 2009 season. It’s worthy of attention because 2009 was the year that Ronaldo signed to play with the team. They went from having only the “Batavo” sponsor to having 6 total sponsors (an additional sponsor is on the back of the shirt where the player’s number is located). One can understand why the shirt became this way, as the team wanted to take advantage of all the media attention that it would now receive since one of soccer’s greatest players was playing for them. Thus, Corinthians wanted to make as much money as possible from its sponsors, and the way to do so was by putting all the advertisements that would fit onto its shirt. After all, Ronaldo would show up a lot in the news, and to have a company’s logo show up in his shirt in newspapers is excellent for publicity.

While it is acceptable for a team to do this, I personally believe that the shirt above is incredibly unattractive. As a fan, it bothers me to see my team’s logo hidden under a sea of advertisements. Unfortunately, this isn’t a problem that has happened only once in Brazil. In fact, many teams of lower divisions, that are struggling financially, will gladly give up the space on their shirts for ads (leading to many ugly shirts).

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Brazilian soccer team’s shirts with many advertisements.

In addition, National Teams are prohibited from using any advertisements on their official match shirts. Yet, during training, they behave like the clubs mentioned above, putting on as many advertisements as possible. For them, there’s a lot of media coverage during training sessions, which can be very profitable.

Brazil's National Team during training, with 4 visible advertisements.

Brazil’s National Team during training, with 4 visible advertisements.

Personally, I find that the 3 basic images–the team’s logo, the manufacturing company’s logo (Nike, Adidas, Puma, etc.) and a large single advertisement in the middle of the shirt–are very appealing. Not only that, but the advertisement adds to the shirt’s personality and can be a differentiating factor between the different shirts used in different seasons (I’ll always associate O2 with Arsenal’s glory years which included the undefeated season with Thierry Henry, for example). The problem comes when teams try to add 5+ advertisements into their shirts to make more money, ruining the beauty of the shirt. However, I do realize that not all teams are like Barcelona, who in 2012 received £150 million from Qatar Corporation, their sole shirt sponsor back then.

Henry wearing Arsenal's 03-04 shirt, with the O2 logo

Henry wearing Arsenal’s 03-04 shirt, with the O2 logo

In an ideal world, perhaps teams could get rid of the idea of supporting corporations in their jerseys, and use that space to promote messages of equality, to start movements towards helping those in need, and to send messages to our society. This, to me, would make a much larger impact, as soccer has an immense global power. Unfortunately, since all soccer clubs are businesses, I don’t see this happening anytime soon.

7 thoughts on “How Many Advertisements is Enough?

  1. Shiv Gidumal

    Unfortunately, the advertising revenue that teams receive from the logos on clubs’ kits seems a necessary evil, particularly when considering that soccer games do not have commercial breaks. The trade-off between constant commercial interruption and having advertisements on jerseys seems relatively fair. While it would be amazing to have neither in all sports, it is unrealistic because these leagues, as billion dollar businesses, are fundamentally money-minded.

    On the other hand, I do find it interesting that teams’ jerseys can change year to year and how certain kits can be reminiscent of particular teams, as in Brian’s example of Thierry Henry’s Arsenal O2 shirt. This adds an interesting dynamic of updated and throwback kits. Similarly, it could result in bankrupt of antiquated companies being featured on older jerseys. Such issues have already arisen in clubs as large as Barcelona, whose Qatar Foundation advertising has been controversial.

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  2. Paige Newhouse

    I definitely agree with Haley about the lack of commercial breaks/increased advertising on jerseys. Its interesting because its the exact opposite from American Football, which has too many commercial breaks and no advertising on jerseys, except for the team name and the logo of the company that made the jerseys i.e. Nike. Unfortunately professional athletics is about money, and these advertisements allow teams/professional sports leagues to make money. I’m wondering how much money European football leagues are making compared to the NFL. Moreover, what is more profitable – commercial breaks or over advertising on jerseys?

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  3. Alex McIlvaine

    While I see the need for these advertisements in leagues that generate less revenue, such as the MLS, I am confused by their existence in the Premier League and other prominent ones where player contracts clearly indicate no shortage of wealth. Compare this issue to American basketball: while the WNBA sells ad space on their jerseys, the NBA does not, as they simply do not need to. In other major leagues (NFL, MLB, NHL) the same pattern exists. If these more popular, European football leagues still seek to make even more money, they should consider designing less commercial, more appealing jerseys that will sell even faster.

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  4. Thamina Stoll

    Very interesting article! Since I am from Europe I’ve never thought of jerseys that way as the number of sponsors are usually limited to two. I have to agree with Haley that I don’t think that this situation is likely to change any time soon. At least not for teams who are struggling financially. But it does support the growth of minor leagues and promote soccer in countries that don’t have a strong affiliation with this sport. However, I pity the fans because who wants to wear an ugly jersey covered with 10 or more sponsors?

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  5. Haley Amster

    I agree with you about the aesthetics of commercialized jerseys- some advertisements add character and are effective, but too many look overdone and cheapen the jerseys in a way. However, I think that in the US and the MLS and NWSL leagues, these advertisements aren’t just essential to keeping these leagues going, but also that they are a huge opportunity to increase support and growth of American soccer. These ads on the jerseys are some of the very few opportunities in soccer to advertise, considering the lack of opportunities for commercial breaks during the matches. Also, the more companies that can sponsor these teams and be advertised in jerseys, the more support the teams will have, which could increase popularity and exposure for soccer in America. All in all, I see these ads as a necessary evil.

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    1. Taariq Shabazz

      I agree advertisments on the soccer jersey are a key part in keeping the game going with sponsors and ect. My belief is that there should be a limit to how many adds can be on jersey so that the players do not look so much like moving billboards.

      Reply
      1. Deemer Class IV

        Another interesting way to look at it is that in American Professional Leagues, sponsors such as Nike, Under Armour, and Reebok hold league wide contracts that give them a monopoly over each sport and what the players and teams are allowed to wear. It would be interesting to see if a few major companies, such as Adidas and Nike, were to sponsor the entire football leagues and provide the necessary funding to each club. If this isn’t done, I couldn’t imagine them limiting the number of sponsors, especially since keeping struggling teams financially afloat greatly outweighs the appearance of their uniforms. It’d be interesting to hear from NASCAR fans or participants, whom cars are covered with an array of advertisements similar to European soccer jerseys.

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