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.
Over the previous six installments of this series we’ve seen a number of hardware manufacturers or software developers and distributors lending their names to the fronts of football team’s shirts. It makes sense that the companies behind the products promote their brand, but sometimes it all gets a bit meta with games based on the game sponsoring teams playing the game who you can play as in the game… are you following?
From the early top-view games like Kick-Off or Sensible Soccer to strategic simulations such as Championship Manager fans of the beautiful game have been able to emulate what they see on the pitch from the comfort of their own homes for many years. But in 1994 EA Sports changed the accepted norm for soccer games.
Introducing an unusual perspective from which the gamer views the action on-screen from one more in line with what you might see via television coverage, FIFA ’94 stood out from the crowd and became a phenomenal success. It’s growing accomplishments have seen the FIFA series attract more official licenses from football associations around the world and move gradually closer and closer to a truly realistic depiction of football in game format. For a while Pro Evolution Soccer sought to steal FIFA’s crown taking a significant market share thanks to the game’s realism and accuracy at the time before ultimately falling behind it’s biggest rival and peer.
Both games, though, have been marketed via the sponsorship of football clubs.
2008 – 2009 | Pro Evolution Soccer 2009
The appearance of the Pro Evolution Soccer logo on Italian club Lazio’s shirts was intentionally short lived. The deal coincided with the 2008/09 Christmas period in an attempt to raise awareness of the game during a time where sales are increased. It’s unusual for a sponsorship deal to be so focussed on a particular time of year with most deals lasting at least one, usually two seasons.
The appearance of the Pro Evo logo on the top flight, Rome based club’s shirts is significant for a couple of reasons beyond the short timescale. Firstly the fact that publisher, Konami, chose to advertise the game logo rather than the company brand as they did with Tokyo Verdy in Japan, and secondly that the campaign was clearly a strategy to shift units over the holidays at a time when the FIFA series was in the ascendancy.
Lazio’s shirts carried the Pro Evolution Soccer logo for just a short time
2011 – 2014 | FIFA
This is a painful one for me. I’ve always veered towards the FIFA series as preference, but my allegiance to the franchise was tested when the game became the away shirt sponsors of my team’s (Gillingham) bitter rivals Swindon Town.
Having flirted with the top tier of English football the club promptly returned to their natural level in League 1. Regardless of their position in the football hierarchy, the club managed to broker a deal with EA Sports, creators of the elite FIFA Football series. Swindon sported away shirts with the FIFA logo from 2011 to 2014.
Swindon Town sported the FIFA series logo on their shirts from 2011-2014
2012 – 2013 | Football Manager
Whilst FIFA and Pro Evo encourage gamers to emulate their favourite players on the pitch, some video gamer enthusiasts prefer the strategic side of the game and Football Manager is a leading proponent in the world of football simulation where the gamer selects the teams and strategy rather than controlling the on-field action of the players.
The game transcends the software market, it has been reported that Football Manager has become a useful tool for real clubs scouting talent from beyond the football leagues. Whether or not that fact ties into the game’s sponsorship of Watford is up to the reader to decide.
The club wore the Football Manager logo on their shirts for only one season from 2012 to 2013 whilst the team competed in the Championship. Watford returned to the top flight of the English game in 2015.