Every Premier League club's coolest sponsor
Sorting the Coors from the Carlsberg, let’s run through the best brands to ever appear on your side’s jersey
Betting sponsors are soon to be no more. The Premier League have decided that there will be an outright ban on gambling firms splashing their logos across the tops of the top flight – marking the end of an era.
And by and large, it's been a bad one for football shirts. What happened to the iconic sponsors of yesteryear? The creative logos, the exciting brands? OK, not every shirt can be as stunning as Swindon Town's between 2008 and 2011 – a certain football magazine by the name of FourFourTwo adorned the Robins’ kits for three spectacular seasons – but a little bit of style is appreciated in the sponsor stakes.
Not all clubs have been as fortunate as Swindon to be sponsored by a brand that cool – though every club in the Premier League has a contender for their own iconic sponsor. Which logo is the nicest that your side has ever had?
Every Premier League club's coolest sponsor
Arsenal’s sponsor since 2006 has had naming rights to the stadium. Prior to that, O2 adorned an Invincible shirt, while JVC were the first company on the front of the Gunners’ shirts, and the most successful, being the sponsor for three title-winning campaigns.
But arguably, none of them have the cult status of Sega. The classic Japanese gaming giants only came along for the ride for two seasons between JVC and O2, but splashed their classic logo over the away shirts, while Arsenal’s customary red and white home featured the classy logo of the Dreamcast console. Nothing says early-2000s like Patrick Vieira in an Arsenal shirt with the old club crest, vapor rub down his chest and this beauty.
Five different companies have sponsored Aston Villa in as many years. As the club lurch from one brand to the next, it’s hard to find any that have the feel that their old sponsors used to; we’re talking Mita Copiers, LDV Vans, even Rover. Though the less said about DWS - the one that looked like “Cows” - the better.
While Muller yoghurts was great in its own way, there’s no beating AST. It was a cool logo, even though no one these days knows that they were in fact a Californian computer company - who sunk in 2001, three years after the deal with Villa ended. We all just assumed it had something to do with Aston, right?
2011/12 is the lost season for Bournemouth fans. As the song goes, Eddie Howe left for Burnley – and then he came back – making this campaign one of midtable mediocrity in League One without their special one between promotions and progress either side.
The Focal Point logo on the shirts that term lasted about as long as Lee Bradbury in the dugout but had rather more style. A nondescript tyre company, the brand had a nice typeface and was perhaps a subtle description of Wes Thomas ploughing the furrow up top, Marc Pugh Cruyff-turning into oblivion beside him. The Cherries have been burdened mostly with betting partners since – though form's picked up considerably.
Brentford began life in claret, orange and sky blue hooped shirts before moving to the more recognisable red and white stripes. The bees have had plenty of sponsors in recent years but in terms of their best? We're going KLM.
Honestly? We're not entirely sure why a Dutch airline sponsored a London club but it's a timeless logo we're here for. KLM's insignia was even used on the Griffin Park roof in the early 1990s, with the slogan, "Next time, you'd better fly KLM", so that planes from nearby Heathrow would see.
Brighton & Hove Albion
American Express are closely associated with Brighton & Hove Albion these days, decorating their kits but also giving their brand to the Falmer Stadium. There are worse companies, of course. But there’s only one winner here.
For nine years, Skint Records - a Brighton-based dance music record label that housed Fatboy Slim - sponsored the club. In a world of Tik Tok and Zoe Ball on Radio 2, you might not believe quite how cool this actually was; Skint even varied the logo a few times just to keep fans on their toes. This was quite the product of its era. No way record labels have the money to sponsor a club like Brighton these days.
It’s one of two, for us. Autoglass has the radio jingle nostalgia but Coors was a cooler brand (no pun intended) and a much slicker logo. The Colarado-based beer brand were the Blues’ shirt sponsors for three seasons in the 90s, bowing out with the 1997 FA Cup final win, where they were replaced by the windshield-fixers.
Chelsea have had some big-name sponsors too - some of which may have become nostalgic to fans brought up in the Roman era. There was Emirates – strange to think now really, given the Arsenal connection – and Samsung, who paid big for the rights, while Yokohama Tyres and their “Winning team” slogan, unfortunately, coincided with that season that Chelsea scraped 10th and sacked Mourinho. Three mobile’s logo is horrendous though: let’s just agree on that.
Crystal Palace have fallen down the betting rabbit hole of late, with their shirts passed around between ManBetX, Mansion and W88. Gone are the days of the Churchill Insurance dog being printed on the front of the jersey. Ohhhh, yes.
The Fly Virgin logo from the late 80s is a classic, but we’re going with TDK for the most iconic. A brand of cassette tapes that no one cares about anymore, TDK was the sponsor for most of the 90s - in a great font, with that odd little triangle logo. This is more than a sponsor, it’s a moment in cultural history (sort of).
The Toffees have had some odd old sponsors. Angry Birds on their sleeves comes to mind – complete with the campaign that reimagined Gylfi Sigurdsson and Theo Walcott as characters in the game.
For our money though, Hafnia is Everton’s coolest sponsor. It was a Danish canned meat company that no one had heard of, yet it saw Everton win the league and two FA Cups in the '80s. All capital letters, too. Nice.
Pizza Hut is so fondly remembered as a vintage Fulham sponsor, it’s difficult to believe it only adorned shirts for a single season (2001/02). That year did happen to be the Cottager’s first in the top flight since 1968, though, which makes it a special one for fans.
It all just seemed to make sense: Fulham were a likeable team, with a likeable striker in Louis Saha, a likeable goalie in Edwin van der Sar and a likeable sponsor in Pizza Hut (who doesn't love that stuffed crust?).
A 13th-placed finish, as well as a run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, secured Fulham’s status as a team we could all get behind. And then, quick as a garlic and herb dip, the great sponsor vanished in the blink of an eye.
Some clubs, no matter what they later wear, will always be associated with a certain kit to some people. Leeds United’s post-millenium flirtation with the Champions League’s latter stages is one such example; who could ever forget the Strongbow shirt?
The likes of Lee Bowyer, Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell will always be linked with a golden era and the classic kit that went with it. Wayward spending, inconsistent results and a string of controversies - many involving punch-ups on nights out - killed the dream eventually. Maybe it had something to do with all that cider
There’s only winner with Leicester City. No, it’s not Topps Tiles, who sponsored the club between 2007 and 2009.
Walkers Crisps were originally founded in Leicester. They then sponsored Leicester from 1987 onwards, with city hero Gary Lineker being the official ambassador from 1995. He’s now so interwoven with the brand that a flag at Glastonbury infamously read “Gary Lineker shags crisps”. Lineker has never confirmed or denied the allegations.
But while the sponsor became a classic for the Foxes, Lineker himself left in 1985, therefore never actually wearing a Walkers shirt. We say give the adverts to Muzzy Izzet from now on.
Liverpool haven’t had all that many sponsors but they’ve all been good’uns. Standard Chartered aside (sorry guys).
Crown Paints was a vintage 1980s logo. Carlsberg is one of the all-time great logos ever on a football shirt. But simply because it combined a great typeface with that last dominant period for 30 years for the Reds, we’re going to select Candy as our favourite. An iconic logo that screams of an era when all men had 'taches, mobile phones were the size of bricks and John Barnes was the greatest rapper in the game.
Long before the Toure brothers, there was simply brother. In one of the longest unbroken partnerships in English football history, the Japanese electronics firm sponsored the blue half of Manchester from 1987 to 1999.
It was a union which reminds City fans of a simpler time. When it wasn’t just Premier League titles that eluded the club, but Premier League status itself. Indeed, during the first five seasons of the deal, City were playing second-tier football; something a small section of the fanbase still pines for. Oh brother, how times change.
The sponsor adorning those famous red shirts in their greatest era. Sharp were there through it all: Fergie time, Pallister and Bruce, that kung-fu kick, grey-shirt gate, the goal from the halfway line, that semi-final against Arsenal and, of course, the balmy night in Barcelona when dreams came true.
Not every sponsor should be judged on how thrilling the team wearing it might have been at the time, but Sharp somehow feels part of it all; stitched - quite literally - into the club’s champagne-soaked '90s pomp. Think of Manchester United at their very best and you can’t help but see Sharp front and centre for it all.
Let’s just clear something up - it’s not Wonga.
McEwans was a nice sponsor, Northern Rock would have been a nostalgic one these days - were it not for its shambolic collapse - and NTL holds a special place for anyone brought up in the early 2000s watching Bobby Robson’s Newcastle United take on Europe. But nothing will ever beat Newcastle Brown Ale. Possibly by any kit, ever, dare we say?
The Newcastle Breweries blue star of 1993-95 is perhaps our favourite iteration. But any will do.
Can we pick Nottingham Forest's sponsorless first half of 2022/23? No? Hmmm. At least there are several other nice options to go with.
BOXT was visually nice, with its simple typeface. Labatt's gets the nostalgia vote, while Capital One was OK, too. Football Index (rest in peace) was cool at the time. But it's got to be the mid-80s pomp of Wrangler, right? Not only does a classic Adidas top still look good with a pair of jeans, it had the 'One tough customer' tagline back then. Very, very Clough indeed.
Images of Matt Le Tissier flicking the ball over people’s heads before blasting one into the top corner at the old Dell spring to mind whenever one mentions Southampton to FFT. Forget the high-octane Hasenhuttl project, it’s the Draper Tools era (‘84 to 93) Southampton fans still dream of at night, when Le Tissier was everything to a wet and windy town on the south coast.
In a parallel universe, Le God never did become a professional athlete. Instead, he drives around Guernsey fixing boilers, Draper Tools hard hat on his bonce and McDonald’s packaging littering the footwell of his van. A classic sponsor that could only have lasted so long in a pre-Premier League era. We miss the good old days.
Not only is Holsten a beer brand – which makes it cooler than 99% of sponsors – but it was also synonymous with an era in which Tottenham Hotpsur were one of the most exciting teams in world football. We’re talking about 1985 to 1995.
No, they didn’t win any league titles, but this was the era of Gazza and Gary Lineker, the 1991 FA Cup triumph over Nottingham Forest and, later, the jaw-dropping arrival of Jurgen Klinsmann, a genuine footballing A-lister. Oh, and former Spurs midfielder John Moncur has revealed the squad were given all the free German lager they could drink. Wunderbar!
West Ham United
It was a toss-up between Dr. Martens or Dagenham Motors. The latter literally just being a used car dealership located somewhere in the Essex area in the mid-90s. Lovely jubbly.
But, come on, who could deny Dr. Martens a place on the list of the all-time great Premier League shirt sponsors? It’s a brand of footwear deeply connected to various British youth subcultures, from punks and grungers, to bikers and, yes, even football hooliganism.
Whatever your opinion of them, there’s no denying the boots remain a cornerstone of British society to this day. Beyond all of that, the logo simply looked fantastic across the chest of Paulo Di Canio – and you just know he’s got a pair in his closet.
To this day we can’t watch a Wolverhampton Wanderers match without getting a hankering for tortilla chips. It’s not because their shirt colour slightly resembles that of a chilli heatwave Dorito, but because the club were sponsored by Doritos for a glorious two-year period between 2002 and 2004.
It was a great era, too, with Wolves inspired to Championship Play-Off victory in 2002/03, and then coming a glorious 20th in the Premier League the following season. Paul Ince’s waning form may have had something to with the latter - by that stage, he had a curious orange glow to his moustache. At risk of being sued for libel, that’s all we’re saying about that.
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Ed is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working across the magazine and website. A German speaker, he’s been working as a football reporter in Berlin since 2015, predominantly covering the Bundesliga and Germany's national team. Favourite FFT features include an exclusive interview with Jude Bellingham following the youngster’s move to Borussia Dortmund in 2020, a history of the Berlin Derby since the fall of the Wall and a celebration of Kevin Keegan’s playing career.
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