Russia has the world’s largest reserves of natural gas, and most of it is controlled by Gazprom, a state-owned natural gas company. Gazprom sells natural gas to foreign countries, but it’s also well-known to soccer fans. The Gazprom logo is ubiquitous at major international soccer competitions — and across the chests of players from teams in Russia, Germany, and Croatia.
Sponsorship deals are common in soccer. But Gazprom has had an interesting role in reshaping the strategic aims of companies that pay for the privilege of displaying their logo on a team’s jersey. Unlike most companies sponsoring soccer teams, Gazprom is under the control of a foreign state whose geopolitical aims extend far beyond the soccer field. While other companies use sponsorships to sell consumer products, Gazprom uses its as a way to extend its gas network in Western Europe — and, by extension, extend the influence of Russia.
That’s been especially true in Germany, where the team FC Schalke 04 has had a longstanding sponsorship deal with Gazprom. Nicknamed “Die Knappen,” or “The Miners,” the team is one of the most famous clubs in all of Germany. And since 2006, the Gazprom logo has appeared on their jerseys.
To understand what role that logo has had in shaping the geopolitics of Russia and Western Europe, make sure to watch the video above.