Shirt Sponsorships - How Brands Find Different Routes to Success
Football fans make up some of the most passionate and engaged groups of people on the planet.
At the heart of this ardent relationship lies the football fan’s special connection to their team’s shirt. Although football shirts have evolved immensely since the days of only long-sleeved and collared jerseys, the importance of the shirt and everything it stands for remains.
First introduced in the late 1970s, shirt sponsorships have only made this special relationship stronger, as many fans associate iconic goals, favourite players and trophy-laden periods with their team’s shirt sponsor.
Functioning as a unique bridge between brands and the football industry, businesses from all over the world have utilised shirt sponsorships to engage with fans, but they don’t always use the same approach.
In this feature, we analyse how businesses have employed different strategies to achieve success with their shirt sponsorships.
Published on March 21st, 2023
In this Insight:
Shirt sponsorships routed in heritage
Steeped in tradition and local legends, many football clubs are deeply ingrained in their communities with ties to the club’s local area going back generations.
Wanting to tap into this connection, many local businesses utilise shirt sponsorships and other sports sponsorship opportunities to build their brand reputation and give back to what is seen by many as an incredibly important aspect of society.
This is a strategy which has been used by brands big and small and from a varying degree of industries.
Technology giants Philips, listed amongst the top 500 companies in the world in 2022 by Forbes, has sponsored Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven since the club was founded by Philips employees in 1913.
Featuring on almost every PSV shirt since 1982, ahead of the 2019/20 season, Philips teamed up with four local companies to feature ‘Metropoolregio Brainport Eindhoven’ on the shirt as a part of a wider marketing strategy to attract and retain technical talent in the region.
Volkswagen’s long-standing partnership and ownership with local, top-tier side VFL Wolfsburg is another example of using sports sponsorship to engage, connect and build a brand through football.
Shirt sponsorships in strategic markets
The global nature of business today means that organisations have the possibility to expand into markets across the world. However, with more and more businesses looking to reach new consumers and higher revenues, the fight for consumer attention is intensifying.
Football provides a clever solution to this problem. The biggest football clubs in the world attract attention from hundreds of millions of people from around the globe and manage to engage and connect with modern fans through sponsorship opportunities like perimeter advertising and shirt sponsorship.
Tapping into this, businesses have turned to shirt sponsorship to reach new and challenging markets. Car manufacturer Jeep is just one example of this, with the brand making the most of their connection with Italian football giants Juventus through a record-breaking shirt sponsorship deal.
With the Jeep logo first emblazoned on the infamous black and white shirts in 2012, the partnership between the pair has blossomed over the past decade with Statista reporting that Jeep increased their car sales in Europe by more than 590% in the first seven years of the partnership.
Similarly to Jeep, major brands such as Samsung, AIA, Standard Chartered and Emirates have all used shirt sponsorship to reach, engage and connect with target audiences in key markets.
Innovative shirt sponsorships
Whether being watched by millions from the TV-screens, cheered on by boisterous fans in the stadium or worn as a statement in the streets, the shirt sponsorship takes pride of place on the football kit through its typically central placement.
Understanding the importance of this prime piece of footballing real estate, some businesses choose an innovative approach to shirt sponsorships.
Ahead of the 2022/23 season, music streaming platform Spotify became the official shirt sponsor for FC Barcelona men’s and women’s teams. Speaking after the announcement, Spotify said the partnership made a lot of sense from a business, brand and marketing perspective and most importantly, it helps connect fans with artists of every kind.
On the pitch, the partnership has seen Spotify and Barcelona come together to create one-of-a-kind shirt sponsorships which highlight individual music artists.
Especially made for the club’s world famous ‘El Clasico’ game against Real Madrid, Spotify released limited edition kits, with the first celebrating Canadian rapper Drake for becoming the first artist to surpass 50 billion streams on Spotify and the second promoting Barcelona-born singer Rosalia’s latest album.
Although Spotify are the first brand to employ this one-of-a-kind shirt sponsorship within the music industry, they might have taken inspiration from Columbia Pictures innovative shirt sponsorship with Atletico Madrid between 2003 and 2005.
The partnership saw some of the biggest Hollywood hits adorned across Atletico’s famous red and white kits and brought an air of excitement to the European continent.
Shirt sponsorship - invest, understand and adapt
Shirt sponsorships provide businesses with a unique opportunity to share their brand with millions of people from a wide range of key target markets, but to get the most out of the partnership, brands should learn from the successes of others.
Football fans’ currency is loyalty - most fans pick a team when they are young and stick with it for life. Businesses who have understood this, have built long-lasting relationships with fans through investing in shirt sponsorships over an extended time period and forming an ‘era’ around their brand.
The most successful shirt sponsorships have also taken the time to understand the culture and community surrounding the football club and adapted their partnership to align with this - similarly to Spotify’s partnership with local artist Rosalia.
As football continues to firmly cement its position as the world’s most popular sport, the exciting and evolving world of shirt sponsorships will only become more and more important.