It is very much a case of cause and effect when it comes to the relationship between success on the field and changes to the shirt, sponsor or even logo. Sportsmen and sports fans are notoriously some of the most superstitious people on the planet and a shirt can often be seen as big an influence to a winning team as the multi million pound striker, or the manager’s tactics. Who can forget Manchester United’s infamous grey strip?
But it also works the other way round: if a club suddenly achieves success, out of the blue, new commercial opportunities which they would be foolish to disregard are opened up to them. A bigger better sponsor can be attracted, a celebratory kit or logo can be created, and hopefully, even a star can be added to the jersey.
Here, we look at the winners of the world’s most prestigious club tournament over the last ten years and explore whether the success was maybe down to alterations at a more “fundamental” level than the starting eleven, or if in fact success prompted a sartorial change.
Tradition and superstition go hand in hand with this Italian giant. Though there have been recent tweaks to the home shirt (introducing a second red for the first time), there would be a riot in the city if they were to go deeper than that. However, the famous red and black shirts – representing the players’ fiery ardour and the opponents’ fear respectively – aren’t considered lucky in the biggest of games. The club, fans and players alike believe that the white away kit is a good omen when it comes to Champions League finals. This is backed up by the stats, with the Rossoneri winning six out of eight finals when wearing the second strip (including the final in 2007 in Athens), compared to just 1 out of three when in their home kit. Interestingly, the club did change their logo at the beginning of the 2014/15 season, when they incorporated St George’s Cross – the city’s emblem – on their crest.
Winners – 2007/2008
The thought of Man U playing in anything other than red seems an impossibility nowadays, but that hasn’t always been the case. In the 2007/8 season they certainly were in red and white, including for the dramatic Champions league final that year as well. That success came midway through the club’s record-breaking deal with Nike as their shirt manufacturer. They have since moved on to team up with adidas, in a deal paying the club £75 million a year.
Winners 2008/2009, 2010/2011, 2014/2015
This year’s favourites to lift the trophy in May, the Catalans have perhaps undertaken fewer changes to their shirts and logos than any other major club. After refusing shirt sponsorship until the 2006/7 season, they relented slightly by sporting the UNICEF logo. This changed in 2011/12 – a year after beating Manchester United at Wembley to win the tournament for the fourth time – when they entered into a deal with the Qatar Foundation. After winning it again in May 2015, they took the unprecedented step to radically change the strip, adopting horizontal instead of vertical stripes, a change that lasted just one season.
Inter’s original logo was created by one of the club’s founders – Giorgio Muggiani – who also happened to be a painter of some repute. This was changed for the 1999/2000 season, but the club decided to revert back to the original design – albeit a slightly modernized version, in 2007. If this was the reason or whether it was the fact they had José Mourinho as manager, we don’t know, but either way two years later they went on to win their first European Cup for 45 years.
Chelsea have probably had more logo changes than most clubs, with their badge having undergone four major changes and numerous tweaks over the years. The club’s only Champions League win however came during a period of relative stability – in terms of the crest anyway. The success also came midway through their sponsorship deal with Samsung before moving onto Yokohama Tyres in 2015/2016.
Like Chelsea, Bayern’s crest has changed several times, but they have also not been shy in altering the kit, even bringing out special one off versions for finals. This they did in the 2013/14 season, perhaps hoping they would be able to wear it in the Champions League Final, but alas they had to be content sporting it in the DFB-Pokal, DFL- Supercup, UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup finals.
Winners 2013/2014, 2015/2016
Real’s crest underwent four reincarnations from its conception in 1902 until 1941. After that it has been left alone, as has their kit, though the scope of things to do with a pure white one is rather limited. This lack of tinkering though has reaped rewards. The Madrid club have won a record 11 European Cups/Champions Leagues, something that obviously rankles with huge rivals Barcelona, a rivalry that appears to have spilled over into the shirt design!
Whatever the reasons for the changes in logo, colours and sponsors, it is a huge part of the clubs’ identity, not to mention a massive money spinner. Added to that, in a sport where the tiniest fractions can be the difference between a winning team and a losing one, clubs will try anything to gain that little advantage over their rivals. If that includes wearing a lucky kit, or changing the club badge, who are we to tell them they are wrong?