Many fans of Newcastle United may of hoped for a big January signing, a new recruit paid for by some of the £35 million they received from the sale of Andy Carroll, but what they got was a lot bigger- Sir Richard Branson. The deal meant that the toon army would be wearing Virgin money on the front of their shirts for at least the next 2 years, a deal worth around £20 million.
This got me thinking; where did sponsorship come from? How long ago and who were the first club to wear shirts with sponsors on them?
Most football historians credit Penarol, a Uruguayan club team, with introducing the concept of shirt sponsorship to the sporting world during the 1950s. A few clubs in France and Denmark dabbled with the idea although most European clubs were against it.
In 1973 came the breakthrough when Gunter Mast, the nephew of Jagermeister creator Curt Mast, had the brilliant idea of placing the German liqueur’s stag and glowing cross logo on German Bundesliga squad Eintracht Braunschweig’s uniforms. Mast had previously launched a Jagermeister-sponsored motor racing team, but saw an incredible opportunity in the world’s top sport. Initially, the German football association denied the club’s request, but the league was powerless when Eintracht Braunschweig’s players voted to replace their traditional logo with the Jagermeister stag. On March 23, 1973, the team made its debut against Schalke in its new shirts. Seven months later, the Bundesliga officially sanctioned jersey sponsorship.
It wasn’t until 1976 that sponsorship arrived in England, the unlikely pioneers being Kettering Town of the southern league who accepted Kettering Tyres’ four figure sum to have their name on the front of their red and white kit. League officials demanded that they removed the sponsor and Kettering cheekily removed the last four letters and left “Kettering T” claiming that the T stood for Town. The league soon allowed sponsors.
According to a report by SPORT+MARKT, the total invested in shirt sponsorship in Europe’s top five leagues doubled from 235 million Euros in 2000 to 470 million Euros in 2011. One of the largest shirt sponsorship deals belongs to Manchester United, which agreed to a $131 million deal over four years with Chicago-based AON Corp after previously being sponsored by AIG. European clubs received an average of 4.2 million Euros per year for shirt sponsorship deals in 2010.
So shirt sponsorship has come a long way since the days of Gunter Mast and I find it very amusing that the first real sponsors of a club was Jagermeister- a drink that is becoming increasingly popular by the youth of today and the poison of many fans on a match day, whether it be in celebration or to drown some sorrows. All of this whilst everybody’s favourite bank or mobile phone company is emblazoned across the front their shirt.