It might sound funny, but I’m a big fan of shirt sponsors.
I know, a lot of people would love nothing more than to see the death of the sponsor, but I’m completely the opposite. In my opinion, though football shirts certainly don’t need sponsors to be great, a good sponsor can often do more for a shirt than any pattern or detail.
There have been many iconic team/sponsor relationships over the years that have gained almost mythical status. I’m still not ready to see the end of Inter x Pirelli, and I’ll always be jealous of Arsenal fans who got to enjoy SEGA on their kits.
Perhaps the pinnacle of shirt sponsorship though is the ridiculously good run that everyone’s favourite purple team enjoyed in the 80s and 90s. Fiorentina have always had a little something about their shirts, and for a period of over a decade they continued to raise their own very high bar with sponsors that may never be beaten from an aesthetic point of view.
In the mid-late 80s, you had Opel. As far as sponsor logos go, there’s wasn’t the most obviously beautiful. However, the logo did nothing to take away from the marvellous Fiorentina shirts at the time, and as more and more teams began to be sponsored by Opel in the following decade, Fiorentina shirts had something of a ‘hipster’ charm to them as a result, being sponsored by Opel before it was cool.
Then came a spell with Italian soft drink Crodino. Food and drink brands are usually a cut above from anything else in terms of shirt sponsorship, and the gold/yellow Crodino logo popped superbly on the purple base of the Fiorentina kits.
As the 90s rolled in things got even better though. 7 Up made a rare appearance in the football shirt world, sponsoring Fiorentina in a 2 year spell between 1992-94, and fans around the world were gifted with one of the truly special team x sponsor tandems. Everything about the 7 Up logo worked, from how the colours tied into the rest of the design to the novelty factor of having the famous brand on a kit in the first place.
But as if that wasn’t good enough, we ended the decade with another iconic sponsor that perhaps went even better than 7 Up. Nintendo are notoriously tight when it comes to control of their brand and image, but in 1997 they sponsored Fiorentina and began a 2 year relationship which probably ranks as the greatest of all time.
The clash of the gaming and footballing worlds was perfect. Gabriel Batistuta (who had also been with Fiorentina during the 7 Up years) proved to be the ultimate poster boy as he banged in goals with such style and class that he may as well have been the star of his own, Mario-style franchise. From a shirt aesthetic point of view, the Nintendo logo matched perfectly with the Fiorentina crest.
I won’t shed a tear if betting companies leave the football shirt world, and I’m a little worried that we recently had 3 out of 4 teams in the Championship play-offs sponsored by the same company, but if shirt sponsors disappear altogether it'll be a tragic day football shirts.
Just look at Fiorentina.
For more on Fiorentina, check out the debut episode of my new YouTube channel Phil’s Corner and if you're looking for a shirt yourself check out our marketplace.
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