Aside from the obvious connection—there are famous football video games—football and gaming have another strange association: a long history of companies like Nintendo and Sega appearing as shirt sponsors for some of the biggest clubs in the world.
Sometimes, it’s the result of a long-running partnership that has benefited both the team and the company. Other times it’s been a very bad idea for everyone involved.
Below you’ll find some of the more prominent examples, from the stylish to the sad, successful to the not-so-successful.
Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.
Seattle Sounders, MLS - Let’s start with one that’s actually a good fit. With Microsoft’s headquarters just down the road, the software giant is in it for the long haul with the Sounders. With Xbox sponsorship of all their kits, the Sounders’ colours of bright green even match those of Microsoft’s console logo.
This is more than a simple sponsorship arrangement, it’s a complete exercise in branding.
Cerezo Osaka, J2 League - They’re not backed by them any longer, but in the early 90s, Cerezo Osaka—who a few years back had Diego Forlan on the books—were sponsored by home-town heroes Capcom.
Fiorentina, Serie A - Nintendo did OK out of this 1990’s deal in terms of exposure, as at the time Fiorentina was home to Argentinian superstar Gabriel Batistuta, who was never too far away from the highlight reel.
Lazio, Serie A - For a few games in the 2008/09 season, around Christmas time, Roman club Lazio had their home shirts emblazoned not with the logo of a video game company, but of an actual video game. Konami’s Pro Evo 2009 got a little extra exposure during the holiday shopping season, but this was right around the time EA’s rival FIFA series had begun to wrestle both the critical and commercial crown from Pro Evo, and this short-term deal did little to stem the bleeding.
Juventus, Serie A & Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, Costa Rica - Sony has sponsored a number of teams around the world, two examples being Italian giants Juventus during the 1990’s and, more recently, Costa Rican club Liga Deportiva Alajuelense.
Watford, EPL - They’re in the Premier League now, with the requisite gambling company on the front of their kits, but a few years back (and a division lower) Watford were sponsored by Sports Interactive’s Football Manager series (a relationship that continues today, the game still serving as a “club partner” sponsor).
Kyoto Sanga, J2 League - You may not recognise it at first, but that sponsor on the back of Sanga’s shirt (above the number) is actually Nintendo, the company’s name spelled in Kanji rather than appear in its more traditional form of a hooped logo. Nintendo, also based in Kyoto, has been a sponsor of the club for over a decade.
Arsenal, Sampdoria, Deportivo de La Coruna & AS Saint-Étienne - Sega’s ill-fated and expensive flop of sponsoring English giant Arsenal is one of the more notorious blunders pointed to in the demise of Sega’s last console, but they were far from the only European team wearing Dreamcast on their chests. In total four teams would be sponsored by Sega’s console around the turn of the millennium, Sampdoria’s away shirt (not pictured) even going so far as to carry the logo of Dreamarena, the Dreamcast’s free online gaming platform in Europe.
Chelsea, EPL & Bayern Munich, Bundesliga - In the late 1980’s Commodore sponsored Germany’s biggest club and one of England’s growing powers. By then the C64 lived on almost purely as a gaming platform, though Commodore’s Amiga also featured on Chelsea’s kit in the in the early 90’s (Chelsea images courtesy of chuchalanachubelembe).
Manchester City, EPL - They may be one of the richest clubs in the world today, but at the turn of the milennium City weren’t too cool to make a shirt sponsorship deal with Tomb Raider and Deus Ex’s Eidos.
Auxerre, Ligue 2 - For all its gaming clout, and ongoing sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League, the actual PlayStation brand is rarely seen on the front of football shirts. It did, however, make an appearance during the middle part of the last decade on French outfit Auxerre, with not only the PlayStation logo on its chest but the PSP logo on its breast to boot.
Tokyo Verdy, J-League Div. 2 - While stuck in the country’s second division at the moment, Verdy are one of Japan’s most successful clubs. And just like Kyoto Sanga and Cerezo Osaka have been sponsored by their home-town gaming company, so too were Verdy, Pro Evo developers Konami sponsoring the club during the 1990’s.
JEF United, J2 League - Of all the sponsorship deals between Japanese publishers and Japanese teams, this must surely be the best. In the mid-90’s JEF United weren’t just sponsored by Sega, but in addition to the company’s logo they even managed to squeeze Sonic onto the front of the shirt.
Swindon Town, League One - For a few years, Swindon Town had at least one of their kits sponsored not by EA Sports, but by EA Sports’ FIFA series itself. Sadly (at least for Swindon fans), the deal didn’t result in any kind of stats boost in the game.
EPL Referees - Not strictly a football kit, but close enough. Until at least the end of the 2018/19 season, match officials in the English Premier League will wear EA Sports sponsorship.
This story was originally published on July 29, 2011. It has been updated to reflect more recent examples.