Milan, fashion capital of the world, is home to Armani, Versace and Dolce and Gabana. Indeed, the city’s passion for fashion and soccer made for the perfect marriage when D&G created a glossy book of portraits of impeccably tailored AC Milan players in 2011. I wonder if D&G would have been as quick to publish back in 1981, when the word ‘Pooh’ was emblazoned across the chest of each player’s kit. Pooh - a jeans company with a name so odious that the club didn’t win a major trophy until they switched to the more mundanely named car manufacturer ‘Opel’ in the 1990s.
It strikes me that while the Quakes front office appreciated the financial input of the Amway global shirt sponsorship, the fans had a much tougher time embracing the corporate culture of what can euphemistically be called the ‘multi-level marketing’ of household products. Amway written on the our chests might just as well have been ‘Pooh’ - as fans we were fed up of being picked on by friends at home, and by rival supporters on away trips.
My own experience came in The Pike brew pub, where after a rousing away victory for the Quakes, Seattle-ite patrons pointed, snickered and asked us what household cleaners or Nutrilite supplements we would be trying to sell them directly. We remained good-natured guests, but we rolled our eyes and glanced sheepishly at each other; I usually have a snappy comeback, but on that occasion I quietly admitted that “I got nuthin’”.
The three year Amway sponsorship deal has not been renewed, and CLS’s own Lisa Erickson has already proposed possible solutions to resolve the revenue-free status of the bare-chested shirts of the 2012 San Jose Earthquakes. In the meantime, fans can now spend their hard earned cash on sponsor-free jerseys: Quakes in black, Quakes in blue or Quakes in white; maybe all three. A new sponsor will eventually be found, and optimistic fans believe that the next shirt sponsor will be a more acceptable one than Amway, one that we will be less reticent to defend.
But what if it’s not? What if the next shirt sponsor makes us pine for the good old days of household cleaners, energy bars and health supplements? What if the new sponsor provides an even less palatable alternative? Hoping to nix any unsuitable contracts before they get signed, here’s my top ten list of undesirable shirt sponsors to be avoided:
- Preparation H: let’s get straight to the bottom of the issue - we’re all a little sore after sitting on aluminum bleachers for four straight years. Cold, hard and unforgiving - and that’s just the fans. It’s just been a pain in The Buck; Preparation H would be a relevant sponsor, but it would still feel like having Pooh on your shirt.
- Viagra: Quakes sponsored by the little blue pill? The 1906 Ultras won’t need the specially formulated blue and black pill to ensure they are up for 90 minutes, but they should be aware that any longer than four hours might be dangerous; physicians would have to be consulted.
- Vuvuzela: Currently banned at Buck Shaw, this sponsorship would have to reinstate the distracting trumpets and the promotion would surely only work with co-sponsors: “brought to you by Tylenol” or accompanied by a set of Etymotic noise-canceling ear phones.
- Caltrain: The fans can’t have horns, but trains do, and apparently train horns are not as loud (or as frequent) as a new soccer stadium. So, perhaps instead of vuvuzelas, fans would receive free rides to the game and a complimentary train horn for the Caltrain Night promotion (same caveats as #3).
- Pamplona Tourist Board: Here’s an obvious running of the bulls tie in for a home game against New York, but the unbalanced schedule means the Red Bulls won’t be rolling into town this season. The Ultras are spirited enough to participate in a run down El Camino Real, though they would insist on wearing blue scarves instead of red neckerchiefs. OSHA regulations would permit the Ultras to participate with the obligatory paperwork, but the SPCA considers that running with the Ultras might be dangerous for the bulls.
- Occupy: I’m considering here what the club might do with that vaguely unsettling giant, inflatable Amway shirt by the George Best gate. Perhaps it can be re-purposed into a new home for an ‘Occupy Buck Shaw’ protest movement (slogan: Build It Now!). However, it’s only a matter of time before an irate fan runs out from within the new structure during the California Clasico to handcuff themselves to David Beckham.
- Friskies: Plenty of perks for the pet loving fans here: free pet food, Eleanor Abernathy action figures, litter and scratch-poles in the Epicenter. Unfortunately, these items might attract feral cats across the railroad track into the stadium; the hairballs would cause nightmares in the little kids.
- Twinkies: a pastry so unhealthy, so objectionable that their manufacturer is going bankrupt. Hostess would roll out a Twinkie food truck (The TwinKart; El(evated) Triglyceridense; TwinkiBites), which might be problematic since uneaten Twinkies also come with rigorous EPA regulations for their disposal - the filling is a known bio-hazardous material.
- Lenscrafters: The conveniently placed eye-chart on the front of the shirt could all too easily be abused by players, as they argue their case with the referees; I don’t see it myself.
- Forever Lazy: At first glance, a great idea for the chilly evenings early in the season, but who wants to see the subs sitting on the side line bench in blue fleece onesies with butt flaps?
Honorable Mentions: ‘Onest ‘Arry Redknapp Tax Advisors; Justin Bieber; Nigerian Prince Financial Services.
In the absence of a sponsor, the Colorado Rapids are rewarding their 2012 season ticket holders with their own signature on this season’s shirt. Maybe the Earthquakes could sign up Sharpie so we can all sign one another’s new empty shirts with their cool silver-inked pens? You’ll need to buy your unadorned 2012 San Jose Earthquakes shirts now, but if you feel the need to emblazon the blank canvas on your chest with an advertisement, use your own best judgement, and please avoid the sponsors listed above.
Who will you be wearing this year?