The Premier League has changed dramatically since its arrival in the early 1990s. From the import of foreign players to the import of foreign sponsors, with global brands looking to get a piece of the action and one of sport’s most recognisable and entertaining brands.
And when it comes to shirt sponsors, it’s particularly interesting. Upon the launch of the new top flight division, we saw an awful lot of British and local businesses sponsoring teams, from the local brewery to electronics firms and manufacturers. That has since changed, with huge telecommunications deals, and most recently a raft of gambling firms enjoying partnerships with Premier League clubs.
These deals often reflect wider society. During the 1990s we saw tons of beer brands sponsoring football clubs, and with the huge rise in the online gambling industry, we’re now seeing online bookmakers and casinos like 777 broker huge deals to be official partners and shirt sponsors of teams.
In fact, today, online casino sites, sportsbooks or betting sites make up for 50% of main shirt sponsors in the division, with a number more found on the sleeve sponsors. It’s far removed from the early days of the Premier League, and shows just what a global powerhouse it is today.
But what are the best sponsors that have ever graced the league? A shirt sponsor can make or break the styling of a kit, so here’s a rundown of our favourites from the last 30 years of Premier League football…
Dr Martens sponsored West Ham United for five seasons in total, straddling the end of the 1990s and into the early 2000s, and it was one of the coolest set of kits to grace the division.
With players such as Paolo Di Canio and Ian Wright in the team, as well as youngsters like Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard coming through into the first time, it was an exciting time to be a Hammers fan, and many fans look back on the Dr Martens era with fondness.
It wasn’t the brand's only foray into football though. At a similar time, Max Griggs, who bought the UK patent rights for the Dr Martens boot, founded Rushden & Diamonds FC, merging Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds, with the aim of getting them into the Football League.
He completely transformed the infrastructure of football in the area, building a new stadium and clubhouse in the process. Griggs sadly died last year but his football story lives on in the exceptional kits of West Ham and the incredible achievements he enjoyed as owner of Rushden & Diamonds.
TY, the brand famous for their beanie babies, was perhaps an unusual sponsor for a football team, but the Portsmouth brand went ahead and sponsored their home club for three years in the early 2000s. While it probably made them every child’s favourite club, it probably didn’t have much of an impact with the thousands that lined the terraces at Fratton Park on a weekly basis unlikely to be discussing how great beanie babies are in between sips of their pint at half time.
Still, it’s certainly one of the more interesting, and let's face it, friendly partnerships to have graced the Premier League.
While Leicester City had a long-standing deal with Walkers Crisps, Wolves enjoyed a sponsorship deal with Doritos for two years between 2002 and 2004. In terms of styling, it suited the orange of Wolves perfectly, making the likes of Paul Ince, Denis Irwin and Kenny Miller look like bags of Tangy Cheese rather than professional footballers.
Alongside the likes of Carlsberg, Sharp and JVC, Newcastle Brown Ale is one of the most iconic football sponsors of all-time. The beer brand sponsored Newcastle throughout the entirety of the 1990s and with icons such as Alan Shearer, Gary Speed and Les Ferdinand wearing the shirt, they’ve become legendary.
There’s a huge market for them these days on the likes of Classic Football Shirts and it really does go to prove that a sponsor looking right on a kit really does go a long way.