HITACHI, Crown Paints, Candy, Carlsberg, Standard Chartered.
Japanese electricals, paint, washing machines, beer, financial services.
Which company’s product are you most likely to buy? Which is most likely to be found in a house in L4?
Let’s try another.
Sharp, Vodafone, AIG, Aon.
Japanese electricals, mobile phones, commercial insurance, risk management and insurance brokerage.
In Longsight, Moss Side, Rusholme, whose products would you expect to see?
When sponsorship first came in to football there were dire predictions of the game’s impending demise as a working-class sport, of a steady abandonment of tradition in pursuit of mammon.
While much of that prophecy has been fulfilled, it’s difficult to view that as being due primarily to the influence of sponsors.
In reality ticket prices soaring way above inflation, clubs charging what the market will bear rather than considering the game’s long-term sustainability, has had far more impact on the make-up of the terraces and the place the game holds in our national discourse.
That is beginning to change.
We’re entering a new era, a second wave of sponsorship if you will, where ‘commercial partners’ consider themselves to have a stake in clubs above and beyond a logo on the shirt and a few corporate hospitality boxes.
There’s clear evidence of that in the apparent involvement of Standard Chartered in the Suarez affair.
Whether they ordered Sunday’s series of apologies or not, the club stressed that Ian Ayre had kept them fully informed throughout the weekend.
Clearly the bank’s Ayre-brokered £20m a year buys them influence the like of which Crown Paints could never have countenanced.
Presumably that’s the point, from SC’s point of view.
In the absence of beer or paint or mobile phones, what they’re selling is confidence – in their image, in their brand.
The brand is everything when you’re selling nothing more tangible than magic beans.
So when some other brand you’ve bought in to, one you might as well have picked from a hat for all your connection to its history, gets some negative press you need to step in.
That’s what Standard Chartered or Aon want from their deals.
They don’t want you as a customer. You’re entirely inconsequential. If the average Liverpool fan went to their head office they’d be lucky to get through the door.
It’s about our brand and their brand, nothing more.
Our brand may have been built on the back of tens of millions of ticket sales and hopes and dreams and songs, but we’ve long since built it. It’s theirs now, for the price of a Stewart Downing a year.
We don’t matter to them in any real sense, other than as an indistinct mass contributing a bit of colour to proceedings.
The same applies to Etihad and Emirates, airlines whose connections to royalty in the UAE and Dubai belie their motivation for involvement in football – they’re not doing it to sell you a flight.
Interestingly, the three major domestic competitions are backed by recognisable names – two brands of lowest-common-denominator beer and a retail bank (let’s not mention Bob Diamond).
But our biggest clubs are now sponsored by companies used to exchanging cash for influence, to managing their public profile to secure a bigger slice of a financial services industry we’re told creates wealth but whose riches are rarely shared beyond a tiny percentage of the population.
In some cases that’s all they do.
It’s antithetical to everything football can and does still stand for, another step on the road to a reckoning that’s been coming for a long time.
If and when the edifice collapses, clubs go to the wall and the blood-letting begins, I’m not sure the financial services industry will be there in our hour of need.