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Opel's Legacy in Sports Sponsorship: A Look Back at the Brand's Impact on Football.

Roger Hampel

Source of the picture: Twitter/ClassicShirts

The Opel brand has a long and storied history in sports sponsorship, particularly in the realm of football. The German automaker withdrew from football sponsorship a year ago, and now is the perfect time to reminisce about the company's significant contributions to the sport. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the partnerships Opel formed with Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, FC Bayern Munich, PSG, as well as other clubs that benefited from the brand's sponsorship.

Opel and Borussia Dortmund: The Final Partnership - An In-Depth Look

The collaboration between Opel and Borussia Dortmund, which commenced in 2012 and endured until May 11, 2022, stands as a benchmark in football sponsorship. This partnership marked Opel's final foray into football sponsorship, leaving an indelible mark on the history of the sport. As Borussia Dortmund's sleeve sponsor since 2017, Opel's logo was a constant fixture on the club's jerseys, seen by millions of fans globally. This significant exposure provided Opel with an unrivalled platform for brand visibility, while the annual €8 million investment elevated the automaker to one of Dortmund's "Champion Partners". It wasn't just a financial transaction, though. The relationship evolved into a symbiosis that went beyond traditional sponsorship, demonstrating a shared commitment to excellence both on and off the pitch.

Beyond the field, Opel cleverly utilized this partnership to reach untapped markets. A key example of this is the brand's strategic focus on the Polish market, an initiative that capitalized on the popularity of Borussia Dortmund's Polish footballers Robert Lewandowski, Łukasz Piszczek, and Jakub Błaszczykowski. Opel launched locally targeted campaigns featuring these players, united under the "Made in Poland" slogan. This was more than a mere tagline; it was a statement that underscored the fact that Opel cars were manufactured in Poland. These campaigns, adeptly woven with threads of national pride and sportsmanship, resonated with the Polish audience, thereby bolstering Opel's brand presence and acceptance in the country. The partnership also led to an increased interest in the Bundesliga and Borussia Dortmund within Poland, creating a win-win scenario. The increased visibility benefited Borussia Dortmund, which saw an uptick in its Polish fanbase, and Opel, which enjoyed enhanced brand recognition and loyalty.

The association between Opel and Borussia Dortmund wasn't merely a business contract; it was an example to the power of strategic partnerships in sports, where shared values and objectives can transcend borders, reaching and uniting people across the globe. The legacy of this partnership continues to reverberate even after its conclusion, serving as a testament to the enduring impact of well-executed sports sponsorships.

Opel and AC Milan: A Winning Combination - A Closer Look

Opel's association with AC Milan is another significant chapter in the history of the automaker's involvement in football sponsorship. The partnership, which spanned two distinct periods - 1994 to 2003 and 2004 to 2006, coincided with an era of remarkable success for the Rossoneri.

During this golden decade, Opel's logo was prominently displayed on the club's jerseys, associating the brand with some of the most iconic moments in AC Milan's history. The visibility that Opel received as a result of this partnership extended far beyond Italy, reaching football fans across the globe.

At the heart of this successful partnership was a shared commitment to excellence, with both Opel and AC Milan being leaders in their respective fields. The partnership was much more than a logo on a shirt; it was a powerful alliance between two entities that shared the same drive and ambition.

The trophies won by AC Milan during this period bear testament to this ambition. Under the watchful gaze of the Opel logo, AC Milan clinched two Italian Super Cups, one European Super Cup, two Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, and the prestigious UEFA Champions League. The symbiotic relationship between the car manufacturer and the football club contributed to the creation of an era of dominance in Italian and European football.

Source of the picture: Twitter/ClassicShirts

Moreover, the alliance with AC Milan also enabled Opel to tap into a global fan base. AC Milan, with its rich history and international roster of players, has supporters worldwide. Through this partnership, Opel was able to reach these fans, increasing its global brand recognition significantly.

Source of the picture: Twitter/ErkanGala

The Brand Paradox in UEFA Competitions

During the 2000/01 UEFA competitions, there were specific regulations that prohibited teams from donning the same sponsor's logo. This rule affected PSG and AC Milan, both of whom were sponsored by Opel at that time. Consequently, when the two teams faced off, the visiting team was required to make a change.

In this context, Opel was the common sponsor, leading to a unique situation. To comply with the rules, the away team in each match had to switch from showcasing the Opel logo to displaying Corsa, another brand under the umbrella of the automaker. This ensured adherence to UEFA's regulations while still maintaining the visibility of the sponsor's brands.

Source of the picture: Twitter/ClassicShirts

Opel and PSG: Expanding Horizons in Football Sponsorship

The partnership between Opel and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) marked a significant milestone in the automaker's journey of football sponsorship. Active from 1995 to 2002, this alliance represented Opel's strategic expansion into the French market, utilizing the immense popularity and prestige of PSG.

Paris Saint-Germain, one of the most successful clubs in French football, offered Opel a unique platform to showcase its brand to millions of passionate football fans across France and beyond. The visibility of the Opel logo on PSG's kits during this period facilitated considerable brand exposure, aligning Opel with a club known for its talent, ambition, and growing influence in European football. The partnership saw many triumphs for the Parisian club. During the Opel sponsorship era, PSG won the French Super Cup twice, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, the French Ligue 1, the French Cup twice, and the French League Cup. These accomplishments not only elevated PSG's status but also associated Opel with a club renowned for its competitiveness and success.

Source of the picture: eBay

Opel and Bayern Munich: A Sponsorship Legacy

The partnership between Opel and FC Bayern Munich is one of the most enduring relationships in the football sponsorship. This alliance, which lasted for nearly two decades from 1985 to 2002, is a testament to the impact of long-term strategic partnerships between sports entities and corporate brands. During this period, Opel's logo became synonymous with the Bavarian giants, gracing the kits of the team during some of the club's most successful years. The visibility that the German automaker gained during this period significantly enhanced its brand recognition not only in Germany but also globally, thanks to Bayern Munich's stature in the world of football. The Opel-Bayern Munich partnership was marked by numerous victories and memorable moments. These include nine Bundesliga titles, two German Cups, two German Super Cups, a UEFA Cup, four German League Cups, a UEFA Champions League title, and an Intercontinental Cup. These remarkable achievements underscore the period of dominance that Bayern Munich enjoyed during their partnership with Opel, firmly associating the automaker with a winning mentality and sporting excellence.

Source of the picture: eBay

Other Notable Opel Sponsorships

Opel has sponsored numerous other clubs throughout the years, including:

  • Feyenoord Rotterdam (1984-1989, 2013-2017): Opel's association with Feyenoord Rotterdam led to the club winning one Eredivisie title and one KNVB Cup.

  • Republic of Ireland national team (1986-2001): Opel's support helped the Irish team participate in multiple international tournaments.

  • ACF Fiorentina (1983-1986): Although no major trophies were won, the partnership between Opel and Fiorentina solidified the brand's presence in Italian football.

  • Girondins de Bordeaux (1985-1991): Opel's sponsorship saw the club win two Coupe de France titles, one Ligue One championship, and one Trophee des Champions.

  • AC Sparta Prague (1991-1999): During this time, the Czech club secured one Czechoslovak First League title, five Czech First League titles, one Czech Cup, and one Czechoslovak Cup.

  • Standard Liège (1985-1997): Opel's partnership with this Belgian club resulted in them winning the Belgian Cup.

Each of these sponsorships allowed Opel to extend its brand reach into various markets, strengthening its global identity. They also enabled the brand to contribute to the success of various football teams and by extension, the joy of numerous fans around the world. As we look back a year after Opel's withdrawal from football sponsorship, it's clear that the brand's influence on the sport has been significant and will be remembered by football enthusiasts for years to come.


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