Soccer and Sponsorships

By | March 3, 2015

The History:

Beginning in the 1950s with Peñarol, a Uruguayan club team, soccer clubs began to introduce the concept of jersey sponsorship, or as Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano calls it in his novel Soccer in Sun and Shadow, “walking advertisements”. A handful of clubs around Europe began to follow in Peñarol’s footsteps, turning to jersey sponsorships as a means of bringing in any extra money. However, throughout the rest of Europe, the established leagues maintained a position of vehement opposition to the idea of commercializing their kits.

Two decades later, Jagermeister creator Curt Mast came up with a revolutionary idea. Looking to ramp up marketing for his firmly established but modestly sized alcohol company, Mast first launched a Jagermeister-sponsored motor racing team in Germany. But, recognizing the incredible opportunity that the world’s top sport offered in terms of sponsorship and branding, Mast was able to convince German Bundesliga squad Eintracht Braunschweig (with a payment of anywhere from 160,000 to 800,000 marks a year) to place the liqueur’s stag and growing cross logo on the front of their uniforms. Initially, the German Football Association vehemently denied the club’s request, claiming that the introduction of sponsorships to the league would ultimately discredit its reputation and purity.


Nonetheless, the league was powerless when Braunschweig’s players voted to replace the traditional logo with Mast’s stag and growing cross. On March 23, 1973, the team made its debut against Schalke in their new kit. A short seven months later, the Bundesliga officially sanctioned the sponsorship of jerseys throughout the league, setting a precedent that would be adopted around the world within years.


Growth of Advertisement:

In the 1994 World Cup, the logos of Adidas, Umbro, and other huge-name corporations and businesses were made increasingly more visible on players’ shirts than the nationals symbols themselves. Rather than promote the beauty and strength of Germany through their play, the German national team played with the Mercedes-Benz star shining prominently on the front of their kits. For Bayern Munich players, it was Opel cars whose label dominated the fronts of their jerseys. At the time, advertising began to, in the words of Galeano, “outweight the clean living that the sport was supposed to promote”.

That same year, massive fights began to break out amongst Chilean fans during games. As a result, the Chilean Football Association made the bold decision to disallow the selling of beer and other alcohol at the stadiums, despite the fact that the majority of Chile’s best squad were sponsored and thereby partly funded by the same beer and pisco companies whose product was causing mayhem. With the advent of television came an increased desire and need amongst nearly all football clubs to turn their historical kits into walking billboards.


Over the past 35 years, jersey sponsorship deals have rapidly emerged as a massive revenue source for clubs throughout the World. In Europe alone, jersey sponsorship in the top five leagues has more than doubled in the last 12 years. In 2001, sponsorship numbers were at 235 million euros, whereas just a decade later, it was up to 470 million euros. The world’s richest teams have successfully leveraged their performances through astronomically large sponsorship deals.

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Some of the funniest and most interesting European jersey sponsorship deals over the past couple of decades:[1]


  • Clydebank – Wet Wet Wet: In 1994, the Scottish pop rock band Wet Wet Wet’s cover of The Troggs’ “Love is All Around” spent nearly 4 months atop the British charts. Following this success, the band decided to sponsor its hometown team, Clydebank.


  • AC Milan – Italian superpower AC Milan decided to forgo its sponsorship with Hitachi and instead decided to form a partnership with Pooh Jeans.

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  • West Bromwich Albion – From 1984 to 1986, the West Midlands Health Authority paid West Brom a generous sum of money to have the universal “No Smoking” sign placed on the front of their kit.

The Future: What’s Next

New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has announced the NBA’s plans for sponsored jerseys that would be worth an estimated $100 million to the league, and according to Silver, “creates that much more of an opportunity for our marketing partners to get that much closer to our fans and to players”.[2]









[1] Allen, Scott. “A Brief History of Jersey Sponsorship”. Mental Floss.

[2] Allen, Scott. “A Brief History of Jersey Sponsorship”. Mental Floss

3 thoughts on “Soccer and Sponsorships

  1. Emmeline Yoo

    Players tend to be excessively branded and marketed as faces of various companies and sometimes I think it takes away from the game. Soccer in this day and age can be a space that is cluttered by a superfluous amount of marketing, advertisements and logos, making it extremely difficult to separate the game and the brand.

  2. Alex McIlvaine

    The NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB could capitalize off of this too, however choose not to (confusing because America tends to be a commercially, profit-crazed place)

  3. Helena Wang

    This was a great summary of how sponsorships in soccer work. It is interesting to see how soccer teams adapt to this growing trend of using more and more advertisements on jerseys. For example, Barcelona refused to have corporate sponsorship until the 2011-2012 season. Before that, UNICEF was their sponsor and the team paid UNICEF to put the logo on every jersey. However, as the 2011-2012 season started, Barcelona were sponsored by Qatar Sports Investments, netting a contract of 150 million euros. I was shocked at how drastic of a change this was in sponsorship. The trend seems to continuing in this direction though, and I am sure top teams are making a huge profit from these sponsorships.


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