Four years ago, Madrid-based club Getafe struck up a sponsorship with Burger King that put the face of the fast food giant’s mascot on the inside of the teams’ shirts. In theory, when a player would score a goal, he could lift the bottom of the shirt over his head and reveal a smiling king, an innovation that ended up being more controversial than actually utilized.
Now, however, the innovation is coming back, only this time, it’s Barcelona that’s set to cash in on an under-shirt sponsorship. With players under no obligation to reveal the name, Intel is set to pay the Spanish champions $25 million over four years for the right to have their branding printed inside the jersey.
I kid you not. From Reuters’ reporting:
The idea behind the unusual positioning of the logo is that it will be revealed when a player lifts his shirt to celebrate a goal.
Barcelona’s players would be under no obligation to display the logo, which will be added to the shirts for the first time in Saturday’s La Liga home match against Villarreal …
Deborah Conrad, Intel’s chief marketing officer, said: “We did not want to put the players under any obligation to show the logo a specific number of times but we do know that such goal celebrations are a big part of the culture of the sport.”
And so the good old days (of three years ago) of Barcelona donating their jersey sponsorship to UNICEF drift further into the distance, memories of their social awareness and philanthropy run over by machinery commandeered by Sandro Rosell. Sure, it’s the same machinery you see at other clubs, but the efficacy with which Barcelona’s wielding their tools — the readiness they’ve shown to cede high ground in the name of financial largesse — is both disturbing and reassuring.
It’s always disappointing when the good relent, but in their willingness to embrace the cynicism of modern soccer finance, maybe Barcelona’s shown they were never that good to begin with? At least, they’re showing they weren’t any better than Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, and all the other money sponges in the world’s game.
After all, it takes a particularly clever level of cynicism to sell the space inside a shirt, area most people will never see. Sure, Intel are also becoming a technology partner of Barcelona’s, but the immediate product lies under the shirt. To imagine that possibility, propose it, and accept its rewards requires a particularly active imagination, one that’s just pocketed Barcelona an additional $25 million.