Longest Running and Most Iconic Football Sponsorships

manchester united shirt sponored by sharp worn by ryan giggs
edwin.11, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One thing that has long been synonymous with football is the sponsorship and advertising. It is often something that serves as nostalgia for many long-time fans of the game. In many instances just from the name of a brand, we can instinctively associate a football club and vice versa.

Sponsorship arguably helps to keep the game of football alive, with the amount of revenue that it brings in for clubs and, as a result, plays an important part.

There has for years been a long-running debate about whether football indeed should be a business and if there is too much money being circulated in the game, especially when some of this contributes towards what are regarded by many as extortionate player transfer fees.

With many new mega brands now around that didn’t exist two decades ago, some of these have eclipsed a lot of long-running sponsors, both in terms of status and revenue, however there are a lot of football sponsors that are fondly remembered, due to the iconic nostalgia.

In light of Inter Milan and Pirelli ending their 26-year sponsorship, which for many will be viewed as an ‘end of an era’, it has prompted us to take a look at some other long running sponsorships in football over the years.

Manchester UnitedSharp1982-2000
Stoke CityBet3652009-present
Bayern MunichT-Mobile2002-present
West Ham UnitedBetway2015-present
Tottenham HotspurMansion2006-2010

Wolfsburg & VW

One from left-field straight away, the German car manufacturer have been an ever-present in the Bundesliga since 1991. It is hard not to miss their logo, emblazoned across the football team’s shirt, with multiple advertising hoardings scattered around the stadium.

Their crowning moment as sponsor came in 2008 when the club famously won the Bundesliga title and have had a number of great players associated with the club, including Edin Dzeko.

The revenue that has been generated for the club from the sponsorship from VW has assisted in the club’s continued progress and is one of those that Bundesliga fans will feel long associated with.

Liverpool & Carlsberg

For those who remember the Premier League in the 1990s will likely be able to picture one thing when they think of Liverpool football club and that is the Danish lager brand Carlsberg adorned across their shirts.

Running from 1992 until 2010, it was a sponsor that witnessed some of the most memorable successes with the club as well numerous iconic players.

These include the breathless Champions League win in 2005, when, against all the odds and inspired by their captain fantastic Steven Gerrard, shocked an AC Milan side to overturn a 3-0 deficit at half time to win on penalties.

While Liverpool never quite managed to win the Premier League with Carlsberg as sponsor, the club still managed an impressive trophy haul, managing to attract some impressive players to the club, including Spanish trio, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia.

Manchester United & Sharp

For 18 years between 1982 and 2000, Manchester United and Sharp enjoyed arguably one of the most successful partnerships in the world of football. The decision to sponsor the football club has got to go down as one of the most astute commercial decisions in the history of the sport.

This saw the club nearly dominate the Premier League during the 1990s, fittingly, capping the end of their reign with the ever-elusive treble; Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup; a feat yet to be repeated in English football.

It was also a partnership that saw some of the game’s most exciting players wear the jersey, including Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Roy Keane during an era that only comes along once in a blue moon in the modern game.

Chelsea & Samsung

A partnership that is intrinsic wit the Roman Abramovich reign at Chelsea (2005-2015), this was seen as the dawn of a new era when the Blues, along with the oligarch’s money started to reign supreme in English football.

Multiple Premier League titles, FA Cups, League Cups and also Champions League win as underdogs against Bayern Munich, it is fair to say that Samsung enjoyed an elite level of awareness across the blue fabric of the Chelsea shirt. It could be argued that is one of the most successful partnerships, with players such as Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Petr Cech all pull on the jersey.

Stoke City & Bet365

bet365 stadium stoke cityPerhaps a contentious sponsorship deal, this came about when the owner of Stoke City’s daughter, Denise Coates started her own gambling company; Bet365 and secured the sponsorship of the city’s football club’s shirt.

This brought much publicity to the firm, especially with Stoke City promoted to the Premier League at the time. Bet365 have been the sponsor of the football club’s shirts since 2009, though with recent legislative changes to the gambling industry this could change. There are doubts as to whether gambling companies will be allowed to sponsor sports clubs with the debate still ongoing.

As kit sponsor, Bet365 have seen themselves in a number of European countries during the club’s Europa League campaign which helped to raise much awareness.

Bayern Munich & T-Mobile

Ever since 2002 the German giants have been linked with telecomms company T-Mobile and have enjoyed an unprecedented amount of domestic success on the pitch. Practically dominating German football in that time, plus a handful of Champions League trophies, T-Mobile have certainly had a successful run.

With megastar footballers such as Robert Lewandowski, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Manuel Neuer all sporting the famous shirt, this has significantly helped to increase the company’s popularity across Europe, with the club regularly featuring on television because of their Champions League campaigns.

West Ham United & Betway

For a gambling company football sponsorship, having signed in 2015, this is still considered a substantial amount of time. It could well be considered as part of a rebrand for the football club, who had also moved into their new stadium at this point as well.

The 2020/21 season has arguably been their most successful yet, with this partnership in play, with better than expected performances in the Premier League under experienced manager David Moyes.

Mansion & Tottenham Hotspur

Perhaps not the most well known gambling firm, if you cast your mind back to between 2006 and 2010, you will remember the likes of Dmitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe all sporting Spurs’ football shirt with Mansion easily identifiable across the middle.

It was one of the first gambling sponsors in English football, following the regulation of gambling in the UK two years earlier and as such, a four year reign is still considered impressive.

Final thoughts

liverpool players wear carlsberg sponsored shirt 2007
Agnieszka Mieszczak from Krakow, Poland, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As football continues to become more commercialised, we will no doubt see sponsorship deals become even more lucrative.

With more billionaire owners of football clubs now, the roles have almost become reversed with clubs no longer having to pitch to sponsors, but the other way round.

Also, it will certainly be interesting to see what happens in the English game if the government ban on gambling sponsorships comes in and the possible knock-on effects that this may have.