Enough of this rubbish shirt sponsor business. It’s got to end, for the sake of everything good about the game.
The majority of football fans sit in the camp that all sponsors ruin shirts. But the truth is that the best sponsors complete a shirt, and we’ve got plenty of examples to back it up.
Bin off your boiler partnerships and forget about those hundreds of different betting companies. 90min has compiled football’s 30 most iconic shirt sponsors.
Sitting front and centre for Bayern Munich since 2002, T-Mobile look subtle, sleek and unique in an age of endless betting companies and other unrecognisable mega companies.
The sponsor of champions. No, it isn’t much appreciated and no, it isn’t as good as its predecessor, but it’s standing the test of time and would be very difficult to replace.
Early 2000s, Bolton under Sam Allardyce, Barclays vibes. What more could you ask for?
Worn by Jay-Jay Okocha and Youri Djorkaeff as Big Sam’s lads defied the odds, Reebok was front and centre in the Barclays through the early 2000s and rocked it well. Your indie son will love it in a few years.
A little safe, perhaps even a touch boring. But when Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona rocked up in their Unicef backed kit, you were in trouble.
A young yet magical Lionel Messi shadowing an endlessly entertaining Ronaldinho is just scratching the surface. You hate that you love it.
The first of two Boca Juniors shirt sponsors in the list, Quilmes looked incredibly unique with its fancy typography lay on their striking blue and yellow.
With Boca sat in South America, it’s never a shirt that gets enough love. This, though, was bob on. Perfect for festivals.
Similarly to Barcelona with Unicef, Manchester United donning AIG from 2006 to 2010 wasn’t the most exceptional, but you knew what you were getting.
Fergie checking the watch, bald Wayne Rooney unhinged like a prime Sabu, and Cristiano Ronaldo at his glistening best on audition for the Santiago Bernabeu. This version of United was a joke.
Is it subtle? No. Does it really fit the shirt all that much? Not really. But that’s the beauty of it.
Those mid-1990s Borussia Dortmund kits were so unapologetically nineties, it was brilliant. Neon yellow with the big cuffed shoulders and unique design; Die Continentale front and centre tied it all together and made them truly stand out.
Severely underrated sponsor, this.
With a classic yet modern for the time adidas template and a long haired David Ginola floating around the pitch wearing it, Tottenham looked slicker than ever in their Holsten sponsored kits in the late 90s and early 2000s particularly. Not forgetting that first spell, either.
Bring back gaming sponsors. Undefeated.
AJ Auxerre in France donned an iconic, kombat fit Kappa shirt which was sponsored by Playstation 2. Sponsored by one of the greatest games consoles ever. It’s wonderfully and increasingly niche. We deserved more of this.
Sponsoring Napoli from 1988 to 1991, an unworldly side containing Diego Maradona were backed by arguably the greatest chocolate available.
The Argentine superstar having lives on the pitch in that iconic sky blue, before unwinding and refreshing at half time with God’s greatest chocolate bar and, well, we’ll let you assume the rest. Royalty.
Pipping their Quilmes sponsor, Boca Juniors looked even better donning Pepsi on their chest.
The futuristic, boxy format on those colours was refreshing and has stood the test of time massively if you’re looking for a retro shirt. Severely overlooked.
For eight years through the 1990s, the home furnishing giants were the face of Los Blancos.
Teka backed Real Madrid in the pre-Galactico era and complemented some pretty tasty kits to give them the perfect finishing touch. Think Raul ripping it up for his boyhood club. Class.
A seriously unique entry, even for its time, nothing has quite matched West Ham’s partnership with Doc Martens from 1998 to 2003.
Paolo Di Canio and a young Frank Lampard balling out for the Irons, this one is a proper collector’s item. More shoe sponsors are needed in football. Plus five indie points if you own one of these, by the way.
Jeep never stood out as iconic on Juventus’ shirts, but it certainly deserves plaudits in an age of increasingly ugly sponsors.
It stays simple, subtle and effective in completing the shirt. Also looked unbelievable on their pink 2015/16 away kit, and sat front and centre for their collaboration with streetwear brand Palace.
Sprawled across the chest of cultural icons Parma in the late 90s, Parmalat went through the immense highs and crushing lows of Parma’s rise and fall.
Before the company’s 2003 crash, though, Parma were everyone’s favourite Italian side in the late 20th century and for good measure. They were proper cool.
While Emirates has never been the most exciting or standout sponsor on a shirt, it’s always been around the top clubs – and Arsenal – and never made a kit look less than excellent.
Think Milan, Real Madrid, early 2010s Paris Saint-Germain. Every Emirates kit oozes class, and has always been front and centre in football’s biggest memories in modern times. Los Blancos swept up the Champions League wearing it.
Unique to Ajax, the Dutch bank company still looks like no other, even today.
Nowadays it sponsors Ajax’s women and youth divisions, but from 1991 to 2008, the Amsterdam side balled out with the subtle, sleek vertical type of the company running down their already smart strip.
Car manufacturers are somewhat of a dying breed on the front of football shirts, these days. Saying that, so are most outside of betting companies nobody’s heard of.
Opel sat on the front of the red and black of Milan while a young Kaka balled out in the Champions League, and Paolo Maldini took names with the utmost style. Severely underappreciated, always incredible.
Those four blocked letters on the Arsenal chest between the JVC and O2 era was a rather unique one.
Donning advertisement for the ‘Dreamcast’ on the home shirt, Arsenal wore SEGA on the away. The home was elegant and modernised while catering for the youth. The away was more reckless, with SEGA’s standout lettering on that iconic yellow colour.
Sponsoring the blue half of Manchester throughout the 90s, Brother was front and centre on some pretty tasty Manchester City shirts.
They reached new levels of iconic, though, when Oasis started rocking them on their way to becoming just about the biggest band on the planet. Worldwide.
One that goes under the radar a little, Bwin sponsored both Real Madrid and Milan in the late 2000s, contributing to some of the finest kits in Europe.
While Ronaldinho and David Beckham donned the sponsor with the Rossoneri, Kaka had moved to Madrid and stood alongside Cristiano Ronaldo in the iconic white of Real, with Bwin deservedly taking centre spot.
United had a tough job of finding a sponsor that could replace Sharp and still do them justice in 2000. Vodafone did just that.
Out with the old, in with the new. It gave Sir Alex Ferguson’s side a modernised look. Think Ruud van Nistelrooy destroying penalty boxes and a young Wayne Rooney nipping beyond defenders and bagging worldies fearlessly.
Simple bold text and some incredibly bespoke shirt designs to go with it. The 1980s and 90s was a serious golden era for football kits.
JVC was perfect on the Arsenal shirt. It didn’t overstay its welcome, but it wasn’t too small and flimsy, either. The bold text complimented their block colour styles, and gave them an extra edge.
PSV Eindhoven stuck with Philips as their main shirt sponsor from their 1982 introduction into Dutch football, all the way until 2016.
That’s a heroic feat that deserves its own credit. The two now go hand in hand as a result, and made for some seriously striking kits over the decades. Van Nistelrooy, Ronaldo and Ruud Gullit have all donned the Philips kit.
Visions of a prime Thierry Henry going full Sophie Ellis-Bexter on the Barclays in this one. Arsenal invincibles.
Pair this up with some black gloves and over the knee socks, and everyone at the five-a-side cages will be terrified of getting rinsed by you for an hour. Arsenal’s O2 era was unforgettable.
Oh, the Barclays. The sweet, sweet Barclays.
Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool on the hunt with Steven Gerrard scoring thunder strikes and Fernando Torres bagging for fun while being hated by just about every other top side. Has there been a nicer looking font in the Premier League since? Perhaps not.
Ironically, there’s something really aesthetically displeasing and rather jarring about the Brown Ale sponsor on those 90s Newcastle shirts.
But at the same time you’re a fool if you don’t think they’re absolutely box office. They completed an already immense adidas template, keeping things striking and unique, while also being a local sponsor. Class.
On a similar level to the PSV/Philips alliance, Pirelli’s tenure with Inter as main shirt sponsor, over a 26 year span from 1995 to 2021.
While their crosstown rivals have had to switch sponsors, Inter have always been recognisable with Pirelli, who have given football one of the sleekest sponsor designs imaginable. Milito, Eto’o, Zanetti, all balling out as treble winners donning the tyre company.
Before Liverpool were heading up the Barclays with the beer sponsor, they were dominating English football in the 1970s and 80s.
In the late 80s, though, they were doing it at the peak of their style. Short shorts and perms combined with that incredibly unique Candy sponsor, wrapping around the middle of some of adidas’ greatest vintage shirts.
The sponsor of the 80s and 90s. Sharp electronics backed United under their 80s climb and 90s boom, never looking out of place as the Red Devils rose to the top of the mountain.
Be it the ‘Sharp Viewcam’ on their black 1993/95 away strip, the black logo on the green and gold of 1992/93, or the true white as they won the treble, Sharp always looked immense. Fans would love it back.
There’s one winner, and it’s the ultimate collector’s piece for football shirt enthusiasts. And the one wanting to impress at the festival.
Produced by Fila and sponsored by Nintendo, Fiorentina’s purple home kit reached unthinkable heights in 1998/99 thanks to its sponsor. There’s been nothing like it. Gabriel Batistuta bagging in the name of the Super Mario Bros. Yes please.