The Napoli x Mars combo that couldn’t be more Maradona

Our shirts don’t need saving – Part 3

The late 1980s and early 1990s were a great time for Napoli. They were finally challenging for and winning the Serie A title, European runs were becoming the norm for their ultras fan base, and they were led from the front by the world’s best player of the era, Diego Maradona. 

And then, of course, they had that shirt, with that sponsor. From 1988 to 1991, Napoli’s traditional sky blue shirt featured chocolate bar company Mars as its lead sponsor, as shown by @ifrha3’s phenomenal design below. Somehow a beautiful shirt – designed by legendary and sadly now defunct Italian brand Ennere – was made even more stunning, with the whimsical addition of the confectionary brand. 

Let’s not forget that this was a strong and memorable era for shirts and sponsors in Italy; Juve’s black and white stripes advertised Ariston, AC Milan wore Mediolanum shirts on their way to European Cup success, and Roma’s Giallorossi shirts were emblazoned with Barilla. 

All good shirts, all memorable sponsors – some of which we have recreated on the club’s latest shirts – but there was just something different about this Napoli shirt. There was a novelty about a chocolate bar sponsoring a team, because it was instantly relatable to everyone watching. 

As today’s shirt sponsors are made up mostly of airlines, betting companies or car manufacturers, it is a relief and, dare I say it in a game too often taken overly seriously, fun to see a shirt like this. 

Their red away shirt from the same era was another added treat, with the Mars logo blending nicely with the all red kit, giving even more of a whimsical feel the the Neapolitans’ team.   

But as well as being the likely go-to shirt choice for young boys and girls across Italy at the time, this shirt became especially synonymous with one player in particular, as this shirt arrived in the middle of Diego Maradona’s legendary tenure in Naples.

Maradona’s time wearing the Mars sponsored shirt saw him take centre stage, continually inspiring the team to punch above their weight, leading to a UEFA Cup in 1989 and their second league title in 1990. As such, so few shirts could be said to be as strongly linked to one player, and when picturing the tight, white Ennere shorts, the sky blue, collared shirt and the Mars sponsor, it is Maradona, his floppy locks, cheeky smile and lightening quick feet that instantly come to mind. 

But as Maradona’s dominant spell in Italy could not last forever, neither could Mars’ time as shirt sponsor for Napoli. As well as seeing Maradona banned for a drugs offence, the 1990-91 season also marked the last year we would see Mars as Napoli’s principal sponsor.

Sadly, they have not made a return to the shirt sponsor game since. It was fun while it lasted though. 

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Thanks again to Ifrha for her wonderful Napoli illustration. You can see more of her designs over on Twitter and Insta.

Matt Leslie

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