Football sponsorships are a very visible and often controversial part of the sport. We're used to seeing corporate logos splashed over the front of football shirts, sleeves, stadium signage and elsewhere, and a high-profile deal can throw a hitherto unknown company into the international limelight.
We've seen plenty of eyebrow-raising big-money deals over the years, but Spain's FC Barcelona, currently third placed in La Liga, has just unveiled what is perhaps one of the most surprising yet. It's putting the Rolling Stones logo, one of the best band logos, on its shirts.
DONE DEAL! 🤘💥🚨🤝🗞️ FC Barcelona and @RollingStones sign deal ahead of the next #ElClásico thanks to @Spotify . 28/10/2023 👅 pic.twitter.com/bfH7tpw5LpOctober 19, 2023
FC Barcelona long bucked the trend in sponsorships. For a long time, it proudly had no shirt sponsor at all, and when it did finally put a logo on shirts in 2007, it was for the humanitarian aid organisation Unicef. Alas, that changed in 2011 with a €171 deal with the Qatar Foundation. There were attempts to excuse that as a non-profit organisation, but two seasons later the Qatar Foundation gave way to Qatar Airways. Several years later, the Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten put its name on Barça's shirts.
For the last two seasons, the club's main sponsor has been the music streaming platform Spotify, and it's as part of this deal that Barcelona will display the Rolling Stones logo during the clásico against Real Madrid on October 28. The famous tongue and lips design will replace the Spotify logo for the match at the Estadi Lluis Companys Olympic Stadium and will also feature on the women’s kit for their match against Sevilla at Estadi Johan Cruyff on November 5.
It's not the first time a band's logo has appeared on a football shirt. Super Furry Animals sponsored Cardiff City in 1999 and 2000, and in the 1990's Scotland's Clydebank were sponsored by, er, Wet Wet Wet. And let's not forget that Motörhead once sponsored Greenbank under-10s B in Lincolnshire. But this has to be the highest-profile case.
The stunt is intended to promote the release of the Stones’ new album Hackney Diamonds, but it will surely also be a win for Barcelona when it comes to shirt sales (pre-orders are open on the Barça website).
It's not often that football fans get a shirt on which the sponsor's logo is something they actually want. While the aging London rockers don't have an obvious connection with the Catalan club, the Rolling Stones logo is one of those designs that has grown beyond the band itself, becoming a fashion accessory among people who may not even know the band's music. People are queuing up to part with their money.
It's become something of a trend for Spotify to give its shirt sponsorship to a musical artist for Barcelona Vs Real Madrid clásicos. Last year, Drake's owl logo and Catalan musician Rosalia's Motomami design were featured. It reminds me of when Colombia Pictures sponsored Atlético Madrid back in 2003/04 and would plonk the logo of a new movie release on the team's shirt each week, including classics such as White Chicks and Hitch. Fortunately, this isn't quite so extreme.
The experiment reached it's peak when Torres and co. advertised "White Chicks", better known as "Dos Rubias De Pelo En Pecho" (Two blondes with hair on chest). pic.twitter.com/brkDwUU58ZMarch 1, 2019
The reaction from Barça fans is mixed. "A fusion of legends!" one person enthuses on Twitter, while other fans have described it as the "best collaboration in history" and an "explosive combination of football and music." However, others accuse the club of a cynical ploy to cash in on merchandise sales. Clubs need to think carefully about the logos they place on all merchandise. Just this week we saw the backlash against the Nike Jordan Jumpman logo on Utah Jazz T-shirts. That's a controversy Nike should have avoided.