Today, football and sponsorship have a seamless relationship.
For City it began with a car manufacturer and, as the game took flight and the Club hit new heights, we joined forces with an airline, with our Official Lead Partner, Etihad Airways, proudly adorning the front of our jersey today.
They are the seventh front of shirt sponsor in City’s history and in the eleventh instalment of our 125th anniversary series, we recall the other brands to have featured on the kits of yesteryear…
CITY DNA #10: Sponsors
The beginning: Scandinavian car manufacturers, Saab, have the honour of being City’s first shirt sponsor.
The relationship began at the start of the 1982-83 season, six years after pioneering Southern League outfit Kettering Town were ordered by the FA to remove Kettering Tyres – UK football’s first sponsors - from their shirts.
The commercial journey didn’t get off to the best of starts, with City suffering relegation to Division 2 that season and though Saab remained a partner for just one more campaign, this pillar of the business of football was firmly in place.
Here to stay: After the automotive giants came a leading electrical company.
Phillips, whose history is indelibly linked with Dutch outfit PSV Eindhoven, came on board at the start of the 1984-85 campaign, as third-placed City won promotion back to the top-flight.
The relationship continued for two more seasons, coming to an end as we suffered relegation back to Division 2 in 1987.
That paved the way for a 12-year association with Brother Industries, whose sponsorship coincided with football’s commercial boom after the advent of the Premier League.
City enjoyed a seven-season run in the top tier and the Japanese electrical company also benefited from the rise of Oasis.
Fronted by the City supporting duo of Noel and Liam Gallagher, the band exposed the Club and, by association, Brother to a whole new audience, with a famous 1994 NME cover shoot in which the brothers wore City’s home and away shirts, just one such example.
Brother’s sponsorship also coincided with one of the greatest days in the Club’s history, when City won promotion from Division 2 in the most dramatic of circumstances against Gillingham in the 1999 playoff final at Wembley Stadium.
A day no City fan will ever forget, the yellow and black striped away shirt which bore the company’s name is one of our most iconic kits.
Fellow electronic giants Eidos took up the mantle after that and were responsible for Lara Croft – a popular character from their Tomb Raider video game series - visiting the Club between 1999 and 2002.
First Advice, a Manchester-based financial services company, were next.
They took pride of place on the front of our kit between 2002 and 2004 and enjoyed association with our victory in the last ever Manchester derby played at Maine Road, before Thomas Cook paid for the privilege of the front of shirt exposure.
The travel company held that spot for five years, though they took a leave of absence for one game during this period.
City wore a sponsor free kit against Manchester United in February 2008, a fixture which marked the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster.
Modern day: Since 2009, Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has been the lead partner of Manchester City.
They are one of 49 Club partners and the relationship has evolved significantly since 2009.
Initially just a shirt sponsorship agreement, it now incorporates the naming rights to the Club’s stadium – the Etihad Stadium – which is housed on the Etihad Campus.
The airline has been our main partner during the most successful period in the Club’s history, beginning with our 2011 FA Cup triumph and followed by four Premier League titles, four League Cups, a second FA Cup and three Community Shields.
Did you know: In 2017 City became the first club in the Premier League to have sponsorship branding on our shirt sleeve after we agreed a deal with Nexen Tire.
The following year this was replicated with our women's team, when QNET took up the option for the sleeve in another first of its kind deal in the FA WSL.