Premier League shirt sponsors - ranking the best ever
From Doritos to Dreamcast, we’ve ranked the 20 greatest Premier League shirt sponsors of all-time.
An ugly sponsor can always ruin a perfectly good football shirt. You know it, I know it, and a large number of betting companies certainly know it. I’m not just talking about Paddy Power, either.
Over the past 30 years or so, sponsors have developed the power to make or break a club’s latest kit. While sponsorship deals grow more lucrative and valuable every year, the logos involved will either have shirt brands jumping for joy or sobbing in the foetal position somewhere. Nowadays, it’s most frequently the latter.
The Premier League is obviously no exception. Although we might love the chosen template, pattern or unique detailing, a kit usually needs a fantastic sponsor if it’s ever going to become truly iconic. In fact, a really great sponsor will actually improve the shirt’s design, adding to the overall aesthetic instead of cruelly taking away from it.
Since modern-day sponsors continue to disappoint, I’m taking a look back at the best Premier League shirt sponsors there’s ever been. From Doritos to Dreamcast, I’ve ranked the top 20 of all-time, as we remember what life was like before the endless stream of gambling companies…
20. Ty x Portsmouth
Years Active: 2002-2005
Let’s kick things off with something warm, cuddly and controversial. Portsmouth decided to dress up as Beanie Babies way back in 2002, with this adorable Ty sponsor (probably) making them every 8-year-old’s favourite club. Rumour has it that Teddy Sheringham and Tim Sherwood actually got into a training ground scrap over a cuddly toy trade. Honest.
19. Labatt’s x Nottingham Forest
Years Active: 1994-1997
Ah, nothing screams “Nottingham Forest” quite like a refreshing pint of Canadian Pilsner. The iconic Labatt’s logo sits on some of Forest’s greatest ever shirts, throwing us right back to the early 90s and an angry-looking Stuart Pearce. Fantastic.
18. Pizza Hut x Fulham
Years Active: 2001-2002
Pizza is definitely the key to my heart, so this iconic Fulham kit was always going to make it onto this list. Even looking past my concerning pizza obsession, the colours and fonts of the logo just really work with the rest of the shirt, and I can definitely imagine Luis Boa Morte sneaking in a slice or two before training.
17. Reebok x Bolton Wanderers
Years Active: 1990-2009
Stadium. Manufacturer. Sponsor. Reebok certainly made the most of their partnership with Bolton Wanderers, coming to represent a much more successful period for The Trotters. The glorious days of Ivan Campo and Jay-Jay Okocha now feel a lifetime ago, but this classic sponsor helps us remember it all vividly.
16. Strongbow x Leeds United
Years Active: 2000-2003
Okay, so the Thistles Hotels shirts were definitely a bit more exciting, but Strongbow and Leeds United just kinda… fit. Maybe it’s the thought of Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell necking a warm can after a game, but this simple text-based logo has always seemed like the perfect match for the Lilywhites. Much better than Frosty Jacks or White Lightning, anyway.
15. Sanderson x Sheffield Wednesday
Years Active: 1992-2000
I can confirm this logo has absolutely nothing to do with Pepsi, just in case you were wondering. Sanderson are actually a Sheffield-based IT company dealing with software (not fizzy drinks), and it’s always great to see clubs teaming up with local businesses - even though they also sponsored Southampton during this period. Next stop: Chuba Chups.
14. Walkers x Leicester City
Years Active: 1987-2001
Leicester and Walkers go together like, well, cheese and onion or salt and vinegar. The Foxes have used various versions of the crisp brand’s logo down the years, from the text-based sponsor of the 80s to the golden circle we all love today. Either way, Walkers branding always looks right at home on a Leicester City shirt.
13. NEC x Everton
Years Active: 1985-1995
Sorry Angry Birds, there’s no place for you here. The simple white NEC logo matched up perfectly with the blue of Everton, a decade of awesome shirts culminating in their famous FA Cup triumph over Manchester United. They haven’t won a trophy since, so maybe the Toffees should think about rekindling this partnership...
12. Doritos x Wolves
Years Active: 2002-2004
I just love this sponsor. The Doritos logo sits perfectly against the traditional Wolves colourway, creating the kind of Tangy Cheese goodness we all know and love. They might have finished rock bottom when wearing this in the Prem, but that hasn’t stopped it from sticking in the mind over the years. If only their away kit had gone down the Chili Heatwave route.
11. McEwan’s Lager x Blackburn Rovers
Years Active: 1991-1996
The McEwan’s Lager logo looks even better on a Rangers shirt, but this is still a Premier League classic. Matching up with the red detailing on the shirt, this simple font is now ingrained in the history of the club, taking us all back to the time of Shearer, Sherwood and Blackburn Rovers reaching the summit of English football.
10. Muller x Aston Villa
Years Active: 1993-1995
Aston Villa might have licked the lid of life for just two years, but this Muller sponsor is still one of the Premier League’s most iconic. It’s just impossible to tear your eyes away from that bold font, and the word “yogurt” was actually added for a televised game to give Muller even more exposure on Sky. It seems to have worked, as my addiction to Crunch Corners is still going strong.
9. Dreamcast/SEGA x Arsenal
Years Active: 1999-2002
Video games and football shirts just work well together. Fiorentina did it with Nintendo, PSG with Commodore, and Arsenal did it with Dreamcast and SEGA. Their home and away kits both featured a different sponsor (Dreamcast on home, SEGA on away), just to make sure everyone knew who had produced the console.
These iconic kits are bursting with Va Va Voom, but I don’t think this advertising strategy really worked out for SEGA. Hands up if you still have a Dreamcast.
8. Brother x Manchester City
Years Active: 1987-1997
Back in the 90s, Manchester City made you think of three things: Paul Dickov, Oasis and Brother printers. The stylish logo looks like it was ready-made for the Citizens’ shirts, with the outstanding font serving as the perfect example of how a great sponsor can actually make a much stronger design.
7. Coors x Chelsea
Years Active: 1994-1997
Cool, crisp and very easy on the eye: that’s the Coors and Chelsea partnership in a frosty and refreshing nutshell. The Blues have had a few really nice sponsors throughout their time, but none of them come close to touching this insane font for me. Alongside the fantastic bright accents, this sponsor was just about stylish enough for the likes of Vialli and Di Matteo.
6. Dr Martens x West Ham United
Years Active: 1998-2003
These boots might have been made for walking, but they also look pretty damn good on a football shirt. The classic Doc Martens font matches perfectly with the traditional claret and blue, looking just as bold and brilliant as the players they had throughout this period. Di Canio, Lampard, Defoe, Kanoute - this sponsor brings it all flooding back.
5. Holsten x Tottenham Hotspur
Years Active: 1983-1995, 1999-2002
A sponsor so good they used it twice. Holsten were briefly replaced by Hewlett Packard from 1995-99 (which also looked pretty good), but beer always beats laptops and software. The navy font was used superbly in every single home shirt, although I’ll admit some of my favourites came just before the Premier League.
Even so, all the best Spurs shirts have ‘Holsten’ printed on them.
4. Carlsberg x Liverpool
Years Active: 1992-2010
If Carlsberg did shirt sponsors… oh wait, they did, and things seemed to go pretty well actually. Their sponsorship might have coincided with Liverpool’s dramatic fall from the summit, but that fantastic font and the red of Liverpool was always the perfect match. In fact, the Danish lager is now a huge part of the club’s identity - the hallmark of every great sponsor.
No offence, Standard Chartered, but you’ll never get close to touching this.
3. JVC x Arsenal
Years Active: 1981-1998
Arsenal have had some cracking sponsors down the years. Younger fans will no doubt prefer the O2 days of Henry, Bergkamp and Pires, but nothing comes close to this iconic JVC branding. The simple logo slots in perfectly with the more exuberant designs of the 80s and 90s, while also adding something extra to some of Nike’s and adidas’ finest work. Serious 90s overload.
2. Sharp x Manchester United
Years Active: 1982-2000
This is quintessential Manchester United. Coinciding with the club’s rise to dominance, the Sharp logo has become synonymous with the glory years of the 90s. The simple text-based design always sat perfectly with the rest of the shirt, gaining the kind of popularity Vodafone and Aon just couldn’t quite match.
Plus, it helped that Lee Sharpe played for the Red Devils at the time - though this caused me all kinds of confusion when I was a kid.
1. Newcastle Brown Ale x Newcastle United
Years Active: 1990-2000
A better partnership than Ant and Dec. This just has to take the top spot, and I’m not sure we’ll ever see a better shirt sponsor in the Premier League. For 10 years, we were treated to the ultimate Geordie mash-up, with Alan Shearer leading the line while promoting some of Newcastle’s finest brown ale.
It all worked perfectly - regardless of what version of the logo they used. This is a sponsor which makes the shirt ten times better, and it couldn’t be further away from the likes of Wonga and Fun 88. Shudder.
You’ll notice that every single one of these shirts has one thing in common: they aren’t currently being worn! Retro football shirts typically have much better sponsors than those used today, and you can compare prices with FOOTY.COM to bag one for the lowest price.