2012 marks a milestone in the footballing world. Not in terms of the very public imploding of Rangers in Scotland, or the fact that in London 2012 we are sending a combined Team GB side to face the rest of the world, but 2012 is the 30th anniversary of the association between big business and football.
Prior to 1982, the leagues were just named Division One, Division Two and so on, and the cups were the FA Cup and the League Cup. Some enterprising soul at the headquarters of the FA saw a massive marketing opportunity to get corporate sponsorship involved in the game, at the same time injecting much needed funds into the game and allowing the company to use their name in connection with the competition or league they were sponsoring. The first arrangement was with the Milk Marketing Board, and the Milk Cup was played for instead of the League Cup for the first time. The concept of shirt sponsorship had been around for a few years, with Liverpool first wearing shirts with the name of their sponsor Hitachi on it.
Since the Milk Cup in 1982, both the League and FA trophy competitions have had a wide variety of sponsors. For the League cup, some of the former sponsors have been Littlewoods, Coca-Cola, Rumbelows and Carling, and it will be known as the Capital One Cup until the end of the 2016 season. The FA Cup was late in establishing sponsorship deals, and it was not until the 1994/95 season that the competition became known as the Littlewoods FA Cup. Budweiser are the current sponsors, and will be associated with the brand until the end of the 2014 season.
Since the Premier League broke away in 1992, the whole division structure of the game has been changed. The lower divisions have a separate sponsor, currently Npower. In the past, sponsors have been Barclays Bank, Canon and Nationwide Building Society. The money received from theses corporate sponsors filters down to the clubs, and allows smaller clubs in the lower divisions to keep their heads above the financial water given that they do not have the resources of the big boys such as Chelsea or Manchester United.
The money involved in sponsoring either a big club, a big competition or one of the divisions will bring lots of positive publicity to the corporate sponsor, but it also involves the investment of a huge amount of cash. Many companies without the massive marketing budgets of Barclays or Coca-Cola have sought other ways to get involved with football. Local league sponsorship offers great opportunities to do this, and companies like Dr Martens, Beazer Homes and Evo-Stik have put money into local leagues. Even Sunday leagues and 5 a side leagues are actively seeking out sponsorship agreements and some Sunday leagues are sponsored by local businesses such as solicitors, hotels, pubs or restaurants. Football has long attracted business names such as Dr Martens and Carling, and there is no indication of this trend slowing down.
- Image courtesy of Rafael Amado Deras
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