Persian League

The top-tier Iranian league, enjoying millions of fans, offers unique opportunities for different brands, both domestic and international, to be effectively seen. 

Football has turned from a mere sport to a vast sea of opportunities for people and businesses. Many brands seek to have their names on the jerseys of teams or billboards of stadiums. And the reason is clear. No one can ignore the extensive popularity of this sport. 

Take, for instance, the online poker industry which has played a clever hand here. They have spotted the great potential of aligning with top European football clubs to draw benefits. 

Or also major home appliance brands and airlines. Other than these major industries, however, there is a rising trend of smaller businesses that have found their names on the jerseys of teams. This has happened in Iran as we will discuss below. 

About Iranian league

The top-tier Iranian league, also known as the Persian Gulf Pro League, was founded in November 2001. A total of 16 teams have competed in the league since 2013. 

After its foundation, the former top league, Azadegan, was named the second-highest division. The bottom two teams in the pro league are relegated to the Azadegan league at the end of each season. 

Meanwhile, the top two teams of the Persian Gulf Pro League qualify for the AFC Champions League with the third-place team entering a play-off round. 

Persepolis, Sepahan, and Esteghlal are the three top teams that have won the most titles in the Iranian Pro League. Persepolis have won the title eight times. Sepahan and Estaghlal have also brought home the trophies five and four times respectively. 

Foolad Khuzestan, Pas Tehran (now dissolved), Saipa, and Estaghlal Khuzestan are also other teams that have the honor of winning the prestigious league. 

Although, it should be noted that these figures relate to the number of championships in the new league that started in 2001. When taking into account the history of the top-tier Iranian league from 1970, we can see that Persepolis has won the most titles: 15. Esteghlal with nine titles sit next.  

Iranian fans 

Anyone with a brief understanding of Iran and its people can testify that they are football lovers. This can be seen when major teams lock horns in domestic competitions or when the national team play in major international events. 

The iconic Azadi Stadium in Tehran, with a capacity of 100,000 people, is the largest in the country. It sometimes acts as a good criterion for measuring the popularity of the sport in Iran. The stadium is the main venue for games of giants Persepolis and Esteghlal and also the national team, also known as Team Melli. It is usually filled with thousands of fans at major games. 

Other than the presence of crowds in stadiums, millions of others usually tune in to the national TV or online platforms to watch the games. 

According to unofficial data, Persepolis is believed to have the highest number of fans in the country. Esteghlal and Tractor stand next. 

Structure of clubs 

Several Iranian clubs, such as Sepahan and Foolad, are affiliated with industrial complexes. These teams typically prefer to advertise for their parent company instead of having deals with others. 

But giants such as Esteghlal and Persepolis rely on sponsorship deals. These teams typically receive funds from the government—and to be more precise from the Ministry of Sports. The Ministry officially handed Persepolis to a consortium of banks and Esteghlal to a consortium of petrochemical companies several weeks ago. And it is too early to predict any change in their policies for the next season.

Before harsh economic sanctions hit Iran, big brands such as Samsung, had their names on the jerseys of major teams because they knew the high visibility of this investment. 

Shirt advertising in Iranian football took off in the 1980s. During this era, Persepolis players not only partnered with major domestic companies but also teamed up with esteemed international brands like Toyota, Goldstar, Samsung, Iowa, Pepsi, Opel, and Audi.

Among the foreign brands, LG, Iowa, Samsung, and Sharp have been the most trusted ones to appear on Esteghlal’s jerseys. However, it’s been quite some time since we’ve seen any notable foreign companies sponsoring the jerseys of the capital city’s team.

To be specific, the last time Persepolis collaborated with a significant foreign brand, Audi, was in 2013. Similarly, Esteghlal’s last partnership with a prominent international sponsor, Samsung, dates back to 2014.

The sanctions, however, have pushed such brands out of Iran. This has led to the rise of sponsorship deals with smaller businesses. For instance, Esteghlal has recently signed a deal with a smartphone retail store. The big club has faced criticisms for the move which critics say may undermine the credit of the team. 

Overall, given the football-crazy Iranian people, and how football matches are welcomed on online platforms and national TV, big brands see the great potential for raising their names.