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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.