Video games companies have been tapping into the extensive football fan base around the world for many years. Here’s a trip down memory lane and a look at some of the shirt sponsorship deals of past seasons.
In the late ’80s and early ’90s fans waged a bitter war. SEGA vs Nintendo. There were no real winners at the time, but long-term Nintendo have endured remaining a major player in the home console market. They also continue to not only sponsor but also, part-own a football team in Japan’s domestic league. We travel back to 1992 though for the earliest instance I could find of a Nintendo product name featuring on the front of a football shirt.
1992 – 93 | Super Nintendo
In the same year that SEGA began sponsoring J. League Division 1 team JEF United, Nintendo began a single season deal in Spain. With Argentinian superstar Diego Maradona on their team Sevilla F.C. should have been flying high. In reality the club finished up the ’92/93 season laying in 12th place. Throughout the season the team wore white kits at home and red shirts for away fixtures which carried the words ‘Super Nintendo’ across the chest.
The Super Nintendo was the company’s flagship console of the time and the machine that was significant in the 16-bit rivalry with SEGA’s Megadrive/Genesis unit.
World cup cheat (not bitter… much) Diego Maradona playing for Sevilla FC in Spain
1993 – Present | 任天堂
The season after their sponsorship of Sevilla Nintendo turned their attention closer to home by, not only sponsoring, but also by taking part-ownership of J. League team Kyoto Sanga F.C. The company reportedly maintains a 16.6% share of the club today.
Kyoto have never really shone. At best the team finished fifth in Division 1 and won the Emperor’s Cup in 2002 but for the most part have endured something of a yo-yo existence dropping out of the top tier into Division 2 before bouncing back. In recent years the team have failed at the bouncing back part with a five season spell in the second tier.
Perhaps what is most interesting about Nintendo’s sponsorship of Kyoto Sanga is that you won’t find the company’s distinct hooped logo on the team’s shirts. Instead since 1993 the club bears Nintendo’s name spelled using Japanese Kanji characters ‘任天堂’ on the back.
Kyoto Sanga F.C. Sponsored by and part-owned by Nintendo
1997 – 2000 Nintendo
The more recognisable Nintendo logo did appear on the shirts of Italian team ACF Fiorentina. Like Kyoto Sanga in Japan the Italian ‘Serie A’ side also wear purple home strips.
Nintendo’s hooped logo appeared on Fiorentina’s shirts from 1997 to 2000 during which the club failed to achieve any success either in their domestic league or cup competitions. The moral of the story? Cool sponsor does not equal success on the pitch.