Football in 2018 bears little resemblance to that of 2008. The basic principle of trying to kick the ball into the other team's net while they try and do the same to you remains, but everything that surrounds the game would possibly surprise the 2008 football fan who was wowed by the unlikely FA Cup final of Portsmouth vs Cardiff City and who thought that Manchester City paying £32.5 million for Robinho was a bit much. Of course, the former has been subsequently usurped in terms of footballing shocks by Leicester City winning the Premier League, while the £32.5 million for Robinho did prove to be too much. However, the inflated transfer fees and increased exposure of the game have made the stakes higher than ever. The sport is forced to adapt to changes in society, with the two sharing a symbiotic relationship. With these high stakes, the time to be a sponsor in football has never been more propitious.
With the construction of new stadia, sponsors can become ingrained into footballing heritage from the outset. Arsenal's Emirates Stadium and Manchester City's Etihad Stadium have had sufficient longevity to be accepted and embraced by the footballing community. When you hear a match report coming from the Emirates or the Etihad, your first thought isn't about the jarring nature of not hearing match reports coming from classic stadium names such as Highbury or Maine Road. This is because the sponsors have successfully integrated into part of that club's fabric, a testament to the positive relationship that football and business can have. In fact, it is that relationship that has enabled the sport of football to thrive and expand.
This extends outside of the United Kingdom. In Germany, the stunning Allianz Arena of Bayern Munich and the BayArena of Bayern Leverkusen are so subtly sponsored that most fans outside of Germany may not even recognise the presence of companies in the stadium names. Of course, that could be a by-product of British people's general inability to speak German. Nevertheless, longevity breeds familiarity. You could argue that if you're unaware of the presence of a sponsor, it is ineffective sponsorship. And yet, that subtle nature makes it all the more effective, and enables football to continue about its business merrily without feeling like an element of magic has been sacrificed.
Much like with certain competitions, fans become tied to certain incarnations of stadium names. However, if there is one thing to breed attachment, it is success. Many may still refer to Bolton Wanderers' home as the Reebok, when in fact a change in sponsorship now gives it the moniker of the Macron all the way back in 2014. It helps that Bolton enjoyed time as consistent challengers for European qualification while at the Reebok, which now feels bizarre to contemplate. If they were to work their way back into the Premier League, the Macron would inevitably usurp the Reebok as the go-to reference to Bolton's home.
Barcelona were famous for abstaining from having shirt sponsors, but their deal with Qatar Airways has been recently replaced with a $55 million deal with Rakuten. The Guardian explains how defender Gerard Pique and his wife Shakira were instrumental in sealing the deal, conclusively proving that the singer's sponsorships don't lie. Manchester United's deal with Chevrolet surpasses Barcelona financially, with the Red Devils marketable as ever. Premier League teams have an inevitable allure for prestigious companies; West Ham United have a long-term deal with Betway, a company widely regarded as one of the most reputable in the country. Having previously loaned its name to a friendly competition and a stand at West Ham's old ground, the bookmaker now adorns the Hammers' shirts. The bookmaking world is thriving in the United Kingdom currently, and Betway's status at the forefront of that is a fillip for a club the size of West Ham.
The long-term nature of their partnership is reassuring for football fans, who are obviously fanatical when it comes to clubs but can be fickle when it comes to the design of their shirts. Ipswich Town, mainstay of the Championship, recently announced a change from long-term shirt sponsor Marcus Evans to that of a bookmaker. Although some fans are currently vocal at their displeasure of the financial outlay of the owner, one Marcus Evans, there was widespread consternation at the new sponsorship deal that would presumably bring more money into the club. This consternation was sufficiently widespread to even catch the attention of the BBC, whose report details the fans' varying viewpoints. Sometimes, those in charge of football clubs cannot win, which is often a reflection of their team's performances on the pitch.
The mark of a great sponsor is that its name becomes synonymous with the relevant competition or team even after its contract ends. Fans of a certain age will grow attached to specific incarnations of the League Cup (what do you mean It's not called the Coca-Cola Cup?), while other commentators will insist that it is still called the Barclays Premier League. However, the latter is now the much pithier "Premier League" while the former competition is known as the Carabao Cup. Carabao have been one of the more intrusive footballing sponsors. Scheduling a draw for 4.15am in England didn't exactly appease fans, so following it up by roping in former rugby and cricket players to perform a severely delayed draw wasn't the best move, as detailed by ESPN. However, most sponsors are able to blend seamlessly into the sport.
The Champions League is yet to become the Lidl Champions League, but it does have a partnership with Gazprom that has prompted people everywhere, or at Wales Online at least, to posit the question: what is Gazprom? Gazprom is the world's largest gas producer, which makes them an appropriate partner for a competition of the Champions League' status. The World Cup will remain adrift from sponsorship in its title but - much like the Champions League - it has partner brands as monumental as Adidas and Coca-Cola.
Clubs are always seeking ways to maximise their profits, but also their brand exposure. Through productive partnerships with companies, sponsorships deals can prove beneficial for all parties. As with transfer fees, sponsorship deals will inevitably continue to rise. Companies will continue to bid to represent the Premier League clubs, with even the lowliest in the division representative of huge brands.