Last week, we delighted in the Sharp years at Manchester United. The partnership stands tall as one of the defining team x sponsor combinations, and I can’t imagine another name (or no name) on the front of the Red Devils kits during those years.
One of the misnomers around sponsors is that they were always better ‘back in the day’ though, and for today’s edition of Our shirts don’t need saving, I want to shine a light on a more recent sponsor that I’ll always have fond memories of.
A green legacy
The Seattle Sounders are relatively young, entering MLS as recently as 2009 as a phoenix expansion team carrying the name of an old NASL franchise. All the ingredients were there for the club to make a fast start: a strong name backed by the history of the old team, a distinctive stadium with a global reputation for noise, a vibrant shade of green chosen as the team’s primary colour, and one of the best sponsors you could ever wish for.
Video game sponsors are legendary in so many ways, and the Sounders ran out the gate with none other than “XBOX” across their shirts. The sponsorship followed in the footsteps of the likes of SEGA, PlayStation and of course Nintendo as gaming companies who have dipped their toe into the football pool, and like any good sponsorship it was a relationship that made a lot of sense behind the scenes too.
Microsoft themselves were part of the leadership structure of the Sounders from the get-go, and they smartly utilised one of their most iconic brands early and often. The vibrant green of Seattle’s kit (dubbed “Rave Green”) was exactly the colour you’d expect to see on an Xbox sponsored shirt too, and the power play was synonymous with the immediate impact the team would make on the pitch.
The Sounders proceeded to sell out every home game during its first year, and their fans were repaid in full with 3 consecutive U.S. Open Cup wins the following few seasons. It would prove to be the foundation of an incredibly successful decade, as a string of playoff appearances snowballed into two MLS Cup titles in 2016 and 2019.
The kits themselves were a lot of fun. As mentioned before the colours were a story all by themselves, and though bright green and blue might be tacky to some, it was exactly my cup of tea. Seattle seemed to embrace their loud identity too, and we got to enjoy a range of futuristic looking kits particularly at the start of the 10s; a time when adidas were pioneering the use of new materials and technology for player shirts.
In 2011, we were treated to an outrageous light blue and luminous green third kit, which paid homage to the designs of the old NASL team. And for those who enjoy shirt designs at the other end of the spectrum, we saw a smattering of sleek black and green kits.
Following the 2018 season, the Seattle x Xbox partnership came to an end. In its place, a forgettable retail sponsor entered, and interestingly we got to see a like-for-like comparison illustrating how much of a difference a sponsor change can make, as Seattle retained the 2018 shirt design for 2019 (due to MLS rules). There’s no question which of the two shirts was better in my opinion.