It’s 1992, Boyz II Men are dominating charts, Sony had just launched the pioneering Handycam® series with the CCD-VX1 and the state of football changed forever; The Premier League was founded.
Argued by many as the “Greatest League in The World”, in 25 years the Premier League has served up some incredible sporting moments to a global audience.
To celebrate this milestone, we thought it right to delve into the archives and look at Sony’s relationship with football. From small sponsorship deals to full teams, Sony’s affiliation with the game is vibrant.
To tell the story, we got in touch with Mundial Magazine to pick out what, in their opinion, are Sony’s greatest football moments; over to Editor Sam Diss to explain more.
Sony & The Beautiful Game
Football is the most popular sport in the world: the most played, the most watched, and by far its most influential.
Sony’s ties to the game run deeper than many, with its relationship to football typified by advancement and legitimacy. How many other electronics brands do you know that run a football team? And not just a little Sunday League outfit: a proper team, with a stadium, and fans, and silverware. Growing from a club founded by Sony workers in 1968, Sony Sendai FC started slowly until they won four consecutive Japan Football League titles in the mid-nineties, coming good on a promise to their fans for quick success, and now plays its football in the gleaming 20,000-seat Yurtec Stadium and won the league title again in 2015.
It was with the advent of the PlayStation in 1994 that the sport and brand became intrinsically linked. There had been other consoles and other games, but it wasn’t until EA Sports brought the FIFA series to PlayStation that things started to snowball. The third FIFA game, FIFA96 was the first to feature proper 3D graphics using something called “Virtual Stadium” and people were hooked: twenty-three FIFA titles later and it’s the biggest selling video game series of all time.
Video games’ ability to proliferate the sport’s popularity was surprising to some, but it quickly gave fans a shorthand to the changing face of football: soon people would have the inside track on Schalke super-subs, a young kid coming through at Real Sociedad, a blistering winger at Sassuolo. It let them live out their dreams from their living rooms. Quickly every fan became an expert, with the actual experts – players – getting hooked on the games too, fighting over whose avatar had the most accurate rendering.
Around the same time football games started to dominate on PlayStation, Sony’s sponsorship deal with Juventus hit full-throttle. In the mid-nineties, Sony boasted prime real estate on some of the most iconic strips of all time, pride of place on the front of the best supported team in Italy’s Serie A, then the greatest league in the world. Legends like Alessandro Del Piero, Fabrizio Ravanelli, and Zinedine Zidane all wore shirts emblazoned with the brand’s name.
Sony still boast strong links with the game, working with cult sides like Liga Deportiva Alajuelense in Costa Rica and, especially, Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand, but has largely stuck to sponsoring competitions such as the Champion’s League and World Cup, some of the most watched sporting events in the history of the entire world – you might have heard of them…
For a time, Sony’s BRAVIA televisions came closest to encapsulating what made the game the world’s most popular: with a special Football Mode fans could swap out the clichés of commentators and enhance the stadium’s atmosphere through their speakers. And then came the Xperia series, backed by Barcelona’s legendary playmaker Andres Iniesta, which allows fans to crowd around a phone to watch the football – its previews, highlights, and inevitable fallouts – no matter where they are. That kind of immersiveness is what attracted us all to the sport in the first place.
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Illustrations by Dan Evans