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  • Writer's pictureRichard Tester

The Best & Worst Shirt Sponsors

Over the last few years, we've seen an explosion in football shirt culture. Where it was once stigmatised for anyone over the age of 20 to don a top, it's now become a fashion accessory not only for matchday but for the everyday.

In a previous kit article written by The Football Trimmings, we examined how the industry has grown, with clubs expanding their offerings to include not just home and away tops yearly but one-off specials, third kits, European kits and retro kits.

Lucrative sponsorship deals have propelled clubs to new heights, and it's the club sponsors themselves that are at the heart of this article. What's plastered in the middle of the shirt can make or break a shirt. Colour clashes, poorly worded names or bizarre logos can ruin what are perfectly good kits. At the same, time, sponsors can complement and enhance the visuals of the kit, making them instant classics or for the most part, nostalgic pieces of fabric that in time become highly sought after.

So, scroll on down as we reveal our best and worst kit sponsors. It's subjective of course, but that's the beauty of this game. We can all be looking at exactly the same thing and yet all have different opinions on it (even with VAR involved).

The Best

JVC - Arsenal

There might be some inherit bias in this decision as my first ever kit was Arsenal's 1998-1999 home kit with JVC slapped on the front. The simple yet elegant JVC in white fitted superbly within the red and white colours of the kit.

The official name was Japan Victor Company, shortened to JVC for marketing purposes. The company specialised in televisions and developed the beloved VHS.

JVC's teniour with the North London club lasted from 1981 to 1999, spanning two decades with Arsenal winning multiple league titles. When I think of Ian Wright, I think of JVC and that red kit. Scottish side Aberdeen also graced the JVC logo during the 80s and early 90s.

Nintendo - Fiorentina

Serie A in the 1990s wasn't just a magical place due to the star-studded line up and iconic stadiums such as the San Siro, but also due to the incredible array of now iconic football kits of the time.

One of them was Fiorentina's 1998/99 home kit featuring Nintendo. In normal circumstances you might consider the historic purple of the club and the gaming giants red and blue to clash yet it somehow worked. Throw in what is a novelty to see such a sponsor enter the football market, a sprinkling of nostalgia from now grown-ups who loved playing video games as kids (guilty as charged) and images of Batistuta scoring for fun during a successful period, makes this a cult classic.

Sharp - Man Utd

It's hard to think about the glory years of the Red Devils and not imagine one of a number of stars (Beckham, Giggs, Scholes, do I go on?) wearing the iconic red home kit with Sharp on the front.

History will show that electronic companies (alongside alcohol brands) dominated the football sponsor scene in the 80s and 90s and this is one of the best examples. Sharp sponsored the red side of Manchester from 1982 to 2000, making it one of the longest standing partnerships in football.

Their simple yet elegant logo always worked well, contrary to their current sponsor Chevrolet which ruins any perfectly good kit the club bring out (more on that later).

Pirelli - Inter

Since 1995, the tyre brand Pirelli has been intertwined with the Nerazzurri. Through the ages of Ronaldo, Jose's treble winning side of 2010 and more recently former Juve captain Conte, Pirelli have been front and centre of their iconic strip.

The logo itself is a classic, with the 'P' stretching across the rest of the brand name. The white colour doesn't distract from the blue and black and has worked well with the numerous templates from years gone by.

Pirelli is very much Inter and visa-versa. You've also got to respect Pirelli for adapting their brand colours to suit the shirt, as the company's colours are actually yellow and red. How awful would that look stitched across Inter's strip?

Brown Ale - Newcastle

I'm going against the grain a little here. I can imagine the reaction to ERG of Sampdoria or Man City's Brother not making the cut (only honourable mentions, sorry) but there's something special about Brown Ale's sponsorship with Newcastle in the 90s.

Between 1995 and 2000, the alcoholic beverage company that derived from the North-East of England. It stirs emotions of a nostalgia for Newcastle fans, as it was the logo emblazoned on the shirts of the players that battled Man United so close to the Premier League title under Kevin Keegan in 1996 (as well as a few FA cup finals).

So popular was the partnership, that talks were held between the two in 2016 as Wonga's deal with the club came close to expiring. It never materialised but goes to show how even two decades on, the pull and love for the brand and shirt holds strong.

The Worst

Pooh Jeans - AC Milan

Need I say more? This might have not taken place during the globalised era of football we know today but had an English translator been in those early sponsorship meetings, the Rossoneri might not have been left with such a bad stain on their glorious history (if you'll pardon the pun).

Luckily the partnership only lasted one season (1981-82) but thanks to the internet and blogs like this, the marks are hard to rub off.

LD Sports - Southampton

A recent trend since the turn of the last decade has been the infiltration of betting companies. Whilst there are clear concerns about the moral implications of showcasing this industry to children and increasingly addicted adults, my main gripe is how awful their logos are.

Take this kit from Southampton in 2019. It won't go down as a classic anyway but the sheer size of the logo makes it very invasive and the colour scheme clashes with the red and white palette of the club. The odd shape of the icon and text underneath also adds another unsightly dimension to this kit.

It's a mess, and isn't helped by the Chinese writing (I can only assume it's a translation of 'LD Sports' but I won't give them the pleasure of checking), which just looks out of place.

Chevrolet - Man United

Having featured with Sharp in the best section, Man Utd have the honour of also featuring in the worst section

The problem with this sponsor is that there's so much potential had they dropped the unnecessarily large woody-coloured cross symbol and left the text. They might have lost a little brand visibility but the shirt would have become more aesthetically pleasing.

Like Southampton's kit above, it almost feels like a two-for-one as both the logo and name appear, increasing the overall size of the sponsor and ruining the kit.

ManBet X - Crystal Palace

What on earth is going on with this sponsor? You've got so many elements you don't know where to look, so I'll lay it out for you

  1. A weird logo on the left. Is that an 'M' in a betting chip?

  2. Asian writing on the right

  3. 'MaxBet X' underneath

It dominates the front in what is a pretty solid home kit for the eagles. Could they at least have tried and create a proper brand rather than throwing together a bunch of logos and languages? Their marketing department needs a word.

Burger King - Getafi

Confession time, I'm not a massive fan of Burger King. The cost doesn't match the quality on offer and I'd take McDonald anytime.

The problem here is you can't just go and stick a massive whopper on your home shirt and not grab negative media attention. The connotations pairing with a global fast food brand aren't ideal and don't exactly scream 'professional' or 'elite' let alone ‘healthy’ and’ lifestyle’.

The logo on the shirt itself is disturbingly large and whilst I've seen worst colour clashes, it just doesn't sit right. To add insult to injury, on the inside of the shirts lies 'The Kings' face, which was stitched on so players celebrating with the shirt over their head would have the fast-food icon in full view. Embarrassing.

Written by Richard Tester

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Honourable Mentions (Best)

Brother - Man City

ERG - Sampdoria

Good Year - Wolves

Parmalat - Parma

Football Manager - AFC Wimbledon

Loaded - Barnet

Honourable Mentions (Worst)

Wonga - Newcastle

Wet Wet Wet - Clydebank

Angry Birds - Everton

More kit content

The Kitsman - A large community of football shirt enthusiasts

Article on the history of Italian club sponsorship

Sharp brand falls after Man United partnership ends

Football Shirt Culture - Pop up shop in Central London


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