Mike Rowbottom ©ITG

Call me perverse - you wouldn't be the first - but when I see branding all over sport it sharpens my consumerism. I resolve to avoid the brand in question.

It's a kind of reverse-loyalty - or perhaps it should be seen as a contending loyalty to sporting sentiment.

Am I kidding myself? Have I in actuality been seduced by commercial brands that have associated themselves in my mind with events and sports I love?

Did I start drinking Carling when they sponsored the English Premier League through the 1990s? Nope. Did I change my bank to Barclays when they took over? Nope.

Did I start using Littlewoods catalogues when they took up sponsorship of the FA Cup in 1994? Nope.

Did Coca-Cola become my drink of choice when the Football League Cup became the Coca-Cola Cup in 1992? Nope. Did I start drinking milk when the League Cup became the Milk Cup 10 years earlier? Well no - although I have to confess I didn't actually stop drinking milk in protest.  

Liverpool celebrate after winning the first commercially-sponsored version of the Football League Cup in 1982 - the Milk Cup, which even had its own version of a trophy, held by Alan Kennedy in the front row, second right ©Getty Images
Liverpool celebrate after winning the first commercially-sponsored version of the Football League Cup in 1982 - the Milk Cup, which even had its own version of a trophy, held by Alan Kennedy in the front row, second right ©Getty Images

Yes, yes, of course all manner of sporting institutions, all manner of sports events, all manner of sports themselves, are heavily reliant, if not dependent, on sponsorship.

And no, no, of course we cannot return to some mythical golden age when sport pursued a glorious path untainted by commercialism (this would be correspondent to the age when nobody ever cheated and the pure satisfaction of taking part made defeat itself feel like a victory).

But when it comes to sport and sponsorship, fruitful collaboration is about the how rather than the how much. The devil is in the detail.

Bear with me, fuzzy views, colours blurring around the edges, we're going back in time… all the way back to 1984 ladies and gentlemen. It must be 1984, because that was the year The Derby, which had been run at Epsom since 1780, officially become the Ever Ready Derby.

I was working on The Observer sports desk five days before the 205th running of the Derby - or Ever Ready Derby, as not one soul in the office was disposed to call it.

I can still recall the look of despair, almost of disgust, on the face of our esteemed sports editor of the time, Peter Corrigan, a man for whom the Sport of Kings held an intense and regular fascination, as he sought to reconcile the need to mark this new commercial entity with his deep desire not to sully one of the great historic names in the game.

If memory serves me right some kind of compromise was reached, and The Observer referred that week to The Derby.

If brands do insist on linking up with sporting competitions, there are some well-rehearsed methods of doing so, all of which can be illustrated in a brief look at the way sponsors have attempted to associate themselves with one that, while not quite matching The Derby for history, nevertheless commands a position as the oldest football competition in the world.

The field races towards the finishing post at the 1994 Ever Ready Derby. For many followers of horse racing, the commercial naming of a race that had been running annually since 1780 was hugely unwelcome ©Getty Images
The field races towards the finishing post at the 1994 Ever Ready Derby. For many followers of horse racing, the commercial naming of a race that had been running annually since 1780 was hugely unwelcome ©Getty Images

The FA Cup was first held in season 1871-1872, and managed to make it all the way to 1994 before feeling the need for a financial pick-me-up that was first supplied by Littlewoods.

It was done in relatively respectful fashion - behold, the FA Cup sponsored by Littlewoods. Four years later AXA wanted a bigger bang for their buck, and got it in the form of the AXA-Sponsored FA Cup. During the four seasons in which this association in football obtained, the new, commercially top-heavy name caused the old chant of "just like the team that's going to win the FA Cup" to be revised by fans all over the country. Not.

After four years in the wilderness, foraging for nuts and berries as the FA Cup, the dear old competition found itself another patron in the form of E.ON, although the latter were switched on enough to settle on the more acceptable Littlewoods formula as the event became The FA Cup sponsored by E.ON.

The next sponsors, between 2011 and 2014, alighted upon the bogusly folksy wording of "The FA Cup with Budweiser". I think not. But at least they didn't pour themselves all over the Cup itself.

Since 2015, however, the last veil of respect has been tugged away and we now have, officially, The Emirates FA Cup. Hooray.

At least it hasn't - yet - become the Emirates Cup.

Of course, Arsenal play at the Emirates Stadium - but as there was no stadium on that site before the Emirates Stadium, this is a failsafe commercial exercise. There's nothing else you can call it other than "the Emirates".

It's a similar story with the Irish rugby union team's home ground - which was built as the Aviva Stadium. Similar, but not quite the same. For while the Emirates exists about a quarter-of-a-mile down the road from Arsenal's old and now redeveloped Highbury ground, the Aviva Stadium is constructed on the site of the old Irish bastion of Lansdowne Road.

The Lansdowne Road ground has been integral to Irish rugby - and football - history since it was established in 1872. The Aviva Stadium will be so named until 2019, after which Aviva Group Ireland, which signed a 10-year deal for naming rights in 2009, will decide upon its future commitment.

Who knows. In five years' time, Ireland could be playing their rugby at the Google Stadium, or the Guinness Stadium. It's business.

The Rugby Football Union's recent announcement that it is considering selling the naming rights to Twickenham Stadium has provoked opposition and been described as
The Rugby Football Union's recent announcement that it is considering selling the naming rights to Twickenham Stadium has provoked opposition and been described as "counterintuitive" ©Getty Images

The recent news that the Rugby Football Union (RFU) is considering selling the naming rights to Twickenham Stadium in London has provoked some very uncommercial and downright emotive responses in many quarters.

The Guardian’s rugby correspondent Robert Kitson has offered his own take on this state of affairs.

After acknowledging the RFU's need to cover the recent £54 million ($71.5 million/€60 million) redevelopment of the East Stand, and noting that Ireland, Wales and Scotland all now have rugby stadium title sponsors, he nevertheless concludes: "How gloriously refreshing would it be if England actually chose to think a little differently?"

If Lord's has resisted, and Wimbledon has resisted, would Twickenham not be wise to maintain its standing as a pure, unbranded brand?

"Is it inevitable that the RFU will sell Twickenham's naming rights in time and does it matter if they do?", the brand-affair blog asks.

"We would argue that it would be a counterintuitive strategy and rather than increasing their revenues it could hinder their long-term sponsorship income by undermining the integrity of their commercial properties."

The example is used of Wimbledon, which generates the second highest sponsorship income of the Grand Slam tennis events despite having the fewest - 12 - "official suppliers".

This is contrasted with the example of the Football Association, which the writer believes is guilty of "diluting" its commercial value by engaging too many - 24 - commercial partners, several of whom provide the same range of goods.

The underlying messages are - believe in your brand, less is more. The reason this is not more widely appreciated - financial short-termism.

It's an intriguing assessment by someone more qualified than I at assessing the relative merits of differing levels of sponsorship. (Which means pretty much anybody, in fact.)

But if correct, this hard-nosed analysis serves to bolster the soft-nosed instinct which tells us that names and places of historic resonance should not be open to purchase and usage for passing commercial interest.

They are worth more than that.