50 years on the chest: the history of shirt sponsoring in the Bundesliga

In 2023, shirt sponsoring celebrates its 50th anniversary in the German Bundesliga, as in 1973 a company placed itself on the chest of a Bundesliga club for the first time. Since then, this form of sponsorship has become one of the most important sources of income for clubs. Companies also appreciate shirt sponsorship - it's nearly impossible to get closer to athletes and fans with your brand. In this Insight, we take a look at how shirt sponsorship has evolved over the years.

70s: the beginning of shirt sponsorships

For ten years, Bundesliga matches had already been played, but without sponsors on the jerseys. Entrepreneur Günter Mast, however, had the idea of using football and the associated coverage for advertising purposes - and so, together with the then Bundesliga club Eintracht Braunschweig, he started the success story of shirt sponsoring.

While the club initially took advantage of a loophole in the DFB statutes by simply using the logo of the spirits manufacturer Jägermeister as the club emblem, advertising on the jerseys was finally approved by the association at the end of 1973. This meant that Eintracht Braunschweig could also officially play its matches with the brand name "Jägermeister" on the jersey, and other clubs such as Fortuna Düsseldorf, HSV and MSV Duisburg quickly followed suit. As early as the 1979/1980 season, all clubs had a shirt sponsor.

In the 1970s, liquor manufacturers and breweries were particularly represented on the jerseys, but electronics companies and insurance companies also found their place with the clubs. FC Schalke 04 was one of the last clubs in the Bundesliga to appear without a jersey sponsor. They used their entry into sponsorship for a charitable cause by donating the space on the shirt to the German Cancer Aid.

80s: Commercialisation and internationalisation of the league take off

While in the early years of shirt sponsorship in the Bundesliga there was often a local connection between club and sponsor, more and more international companies made their way into the German league.

In general, the entry of larger and more solvent companies led to increasing revenues for the clubs. This made it possible for clubs to make top international transfers and pay their players higher salaries. The commercialisation and also the internationalisation of the Bundesliga therefore continued to develop through shirt sponsoring.

Shirt sponsorships were particularly popular for electronics companies, whose cameras, computers or televisions were increasingly found in German households during the 80s and thus wanted to further expand their brand awareness.

90s and 00s: Shirt sponsorships remain successful

Even after the fall of the Berlin Wall, shirt sponsorships in the Bundesliga remained successful. Large German companies such as the car manufacturer Opel or the chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer entered into long-term partnerships with the clubs.

From 2000 onwards, the spot on the shirts became increasingly popular with energy companies - but the finance and insurance sectors were also frequently represented on the shirts. Betting provider Bwin also found its way into German shirt sponsorship, but in 2006 the sponsored clubs had to play without a shirt sponsor due to a ban on advertising for the online betting company - the last time so far that clubs in the first Bundesliga played without a sponsor on their chest.

10s and 20s: New developments in shirt sponsorship

In recent years, you could see more and more websites and digital-first brands on the chest of clubs. For brands from these industries, jersey sponsorship is particularly attractive because it can make a usually rather abstract product more tangible for people.

But other spots for sponsors are also becoming available: while the space on the sleeve was initially reserved for parcel service Hermes at all clubs, since the 2017/2018 season it has been possible for clubs to market the sleeve themselves.

Nevertheless: the eye-catcher is still the special place on the chest. Whether on linear television, in highlight videos on YouTube or on TikTok and Twitch - sponsors on the jerseys of Bundesliga clubs are in the spotlight in almost every report and content.

What's next?

How jersey sponsorship in the Bundesliga will develop in the coming years remains an open question. The fact is, however, that it continues to be one of the most successful tools for companies in the area of brand marketing within sport. The effects are immediately noticeable and brands can already achieve high impact effects in the first year of their partnership.


Average brand development of at least four Bundesliga shirt sponsors after 12 months


Relevant Set





The exact developments of jersey sponsorship remain to be seen, but one thing is certain: as a company, it is difficult to get closer to the Germans' favourite sport.

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