Football brands deserve more fitting sponsors

By Eli Altman
February 23, 2015
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Filed under Branding, Positioning

Let’s start with something really obvious: football (“soccer” for the Americans and Australians) is the most popular sport in the world. Unlike the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB, most professional football leagues allow for sponsorship on their uniforms. Considering all the interest, these sponsorships go for big bucks. Manchester United’s current deal with Chevy is around $80M/yr. Given all the money involved, for the most part, these sponsorship deals go to the highest bidder. Chelsea is sponsored by Samsung, Bayern Munich is sponsored by Deutsche Telekom, Real Madrid, Arsenal, AC Milan, Paris Saint Germain and Hamburger SV are all sponsored by Emirates Airlines – corporations that have very little to do with the location, history, or spirit of the teams they sponsor.

The first football shirt I ever bought was a 1995 Newcastle United home jersey. I was 11 years old. I liked the shirt because the club was sponsored by Newcastle Brown Ale. Instead of being sponsored by a foreign airline or electronics company that had nothing to do with the club, Newcastle was sponsored by a popular beer from… Newcastle. The company’s logo even features the city skyline. The sponsorship actually made the shirt more desirable, not less.

Les Ferdinand knows what I'm talking about
Les Ferdinand knows what I’m talking about

Some people will buy a team shirt no matter who the sponsor is. But in an increasingly brand conscious world, some corporate sponsorships are better for sales than others. Current Newcastle sponsor, the payday loan lender Wonga, has been under fire from Newcastle supporter groups for their unfair lending practices. One of their best players, Papiss Cissé*, even threatened not to play because of the sponsor.

So if most sponsorship deals are little more than a big money matchmaking, what would be the ideal club:brand fit for some of football’s top teams?


Manchester United: While many clubs use the suffix “United,” saying you support United usually means one thing. Having a sponsor with a name to match would be mutually beneficial.

Real Madrid: Sure, Crown Royal might not have the money that Emirates does, but the fit couldn’t be more perfect. The club of Spanish royalty with a crown on its crest gets a sponsor with a look and feel to match.

AS Roma: The Capitoline Wolf at the heart of Rome’s foundational myth graces the crest of Rome as well as the logo of Rome-based Agip.

AC Milan: Both AC Milan and Milan-founded Alfa Romeo feature the Milanese Cross on their badges and have been foundations of the Northern Italian city for over 100 years.

LA Galaxy: Ok, Ok, the Galaxy are by no means one of the world’s top football teams. Hell, they were only founded in 1995. But as one of the most successful clubs in MLS (and certainly one of the best named), we thought they’d be worth a mention. Herbalife, their current kit sponsor does have its roots in LA but SpaceX is far more thematically fitting.

Arsenal: While they might play at The Emirates and be sponsored by Emirates, the Gunners and their style of play need a fittingly aggressive sponsor. Canon seems to pair nicely.

*If you haven’t seen Papiss Cissé’s goal against Chelesa in 2012, you should really click on his name above.