Football's Most Unsual Kit Manufacturers
No.1 Corona Sport
As in the famous Mexican bottled beer? Yes, the very same.
The Grupo Modelo brewery that produces Corona had actually bought Mexican side Santos Laguna in 1993, and Corona became the club's shirt sponsor in 1994 whilst ABA Sport were producing the kits. However, in 1996 they decided to bring the shirt manufacturing in-house, branded as Corona Sport, and it stayed that way for six years until they turned to Atletica in 2006.
American clothing company Levi’s, known throughout the world for its denim jeans, had a brief foray into the football kit market in the late 1970s, striking a kit deal with the Mexican national team that saw them produce their kits for the Argentina’78 World Cup.
Staying with iconic American gear - Converse, best known for their Chuck Taylor All-Stars canvas basketball boots, also had a dip into football kit territory in 2001 with Colombian side Atletico Nacional. As with Levi’s, Converse only lasted a season in the football kit arena before going back to concentrate on the shoes.
Having been created in the 1960s by a former professional boxer, Lonsdale became an iconic name in the sport throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Sports Direct acquired the brand in 2002 and a couple of years later they tried to launch it as a football kit manufacturer, sealing deals with Blackburn Rovers, Sunderland and Birmingham City. It didn’t last though, and the brand soon moved back to concentrating on boxing and mixed martial arts.
No.5 Luke 1977
2018 saw Aston Villa swap global sportswear giant Under Armour for Luke 1977, a contemporary British menswear brand formed and owned by a lifelong Villa fan, Luke Roper. Going against the grain of all the other big English football clubs, Villa snubbed deals with the traditional global kit giants and struck up a deal with local company Luke to design and brand the kits, using sportswear production company Fanatics to manufacture them.
It was a big success and Villa’s shirt sales rocketed, but the following year they reverted back to a more traditional kit deal again with Italian brand Kappa.
No.6 Emporio Armani
In the summer of 2021, Napoli announced that it wouldn’t be renewing its kit deal with Kappa, but were striking their new deal with EA7, Armani’s sporty brand, Previous to this, the only experience Armani had in football was producing the shirts, jackets and trousers for the Azzurri at major tournaments, such as Euro 2020, or the infamous David James-inspired cream suits for Liverpool at the 1996 FA Cup final.
After years creating casual-wear for Catalonia’s beach-lovers, local Catalan company Meyba hit the big time in 1982 when Barcelona asked them to manufacture their kits. They would go on to supply Barcelona for 10 years and kit out iconic players like Schuster, Quini, Bakero, Guardiola, Koeman, Laudrup and Stoichkov.
“Who?” many of you may well ask. And you’d be right. Even Sheffield Wednesday supporters are still probably asking the question.
Fans of this grand old English club had grown up with classic football kit brands manufacturing their famous blue and white shirts - the likes of Bukta, Umbro, Puma, Diadora and Lotto. So we imagine that Wednesday fans weren’t too impressed in 2014 when they heard the news that Sports Direct brand Sondico were going to be doing their kits, but this was nothing compared to the strange news in 2017 that an unknown energy drinks company called Elev8 would be taking over kit production. Bizarrely, despite doing the Owls kits for the next four seasons, there was was still no sign of an Elev8 energy drink to be found in Hillsborough, Sheffield, Yorkshire or seemingly anywhere in the UK!
Thankfully, the club announced in 2021 that it was signing up to a large sportswear firm once again, with Macron. Hopefully it's the return to a period of kit-brand-normality for one of the great sleeping giants of British football.
No.9 BWT (Better Water Technology)
An Austrian water treatment company creating shirts for one of its local clubs would be a bit like Severn Trent Water manufacturing the kits for Wolves in the UK, but that’s what happened in Austria with BWT producing the kits for LASK.
There are plenty of examples of sportswear companies that have specialised in certain fields and then tried to break into different markets to expand their business. But when they attempt it you almost expect them to strike up a number of deals to try to make a name for themselves. So it was strange to see the American company Brooks, who specialise in running shoes, produce Chile's national football team jersey from 2003 to 2010, but not really attempt to branch out anywhere elsewhere.