Whilst clubs releasing a new kit every season is obviously hard on supporters, who shell out enough to watch their heroes play every week, the annual roll out of new strips provide us with one of the most intriguing things in modern football, the kit launch.
Depending on the scale of the club, this moment can often be as important as how the kit looks, giving the marketing departments of the clubs and manufacturers a chance to be as creative and adventurous as they wish, to entice people in to the new kit. And this event can often make up for the disappointment of fans being treated to a shirt looks remarkably like the one they paid £60 for last season.
This weekend saw July 1st come around, and the official start of the new season meaning new sponsorship can be triggered ahead of the big kick-off in August. Nike had a busy weekend, activated their deals with both Chelsea and Spurs following huge contracts that saw them succeed Adidas and Under Armour respectively, so all eyes were on them as to how they showed off their new pride and joy.
Premier League champions Chelsea have often delivered very creative pieces of content around the launch of their kits in the past when Adidas were in charge, so their American rivals had big boots to fill. Teased on Instagram, on Friday night, was a picture of Gorillaz band member, 2D, outside Stamford Bridge, prompting that Chelsea super fan Damon Albarn’s virtual creation were going to play a part in the reveal.
Come Saturday morning and 2D had been ‘given’ the keys to the Bridge on the club’s Instagram story, where he made his way to the locker room, to find the new brand-new shirt and David Luiz waiting for him; cue fun selfies of the pair that were soon screenshotted and plastered across social media. It was a nice idea for a club who are often very inventive on social media, to team up with one of the most pioneering bands music has ever seen. However, considering the potential here for something very special indeed from the partnership, a minute-long Instagram story was a slight disappointment.
Over on Twitter, the Blues utilised their partnership with EA Sports’ FIFA 18, and used the game’s star character Alex Hunter, who players control throughout his ‘journey’, on a game mode of the same name, to show him celebrating a goal in the new kit, also revealing his virtual transfer ahead of the game’s release in September.
Spurs released their new Nike offering at the early possible moment with a late-night gig from young grime star, AJ Tracey, who happens to be affiliated with the brand and a huge fan of the club – perfect! Whilst the idea was obvious, given AJ’s links to both parties, the choice of a young, up and coming act, along with the promotional slogan ‘Watch Us Rise’, reflects very nicely on Spurs’ new-found ideologies as a club. Last month, their North London rivals, Arsenal, launched their new strip in an old-fashioned living room, with two members of the Invincibles (Martin Keown and Robert Pires) – I’ll let you decide where that link is going.
Obviously Spurs and Chelsea using musicians to help launch is nothing new; Manchester United raised the bar for every club in terms of announcements, with their partnership with Stormzy, where the grime artist played a big part in the launch of last season’s away kit and the #Pogback campaign. However, it was in fact England who were the trailblazers in this area when they invited Kasabian front man, Tom Meighan, to wear their new away kit at a gig in Paris in an iconic moment, back in 2010.
As you can see, it’s very hard to come up with an idea that is completely new, and that’s what makes the premise of the launch so exciting because it’s such a huge challenge. The most extreme launch you’ll probably see this summer came courtesy of Wolves, who sent their new shirt to space, where the probably found the remains of last season’s Reading kit, floating around the airspace, after the Royals did the same thing 12 months ago.
One that stands out in my mind is Borussia Dortmund’s floral display in 2013, where they unveiled their new yellow jersey with over 80,000 flowers, before they were given out to fans as good luck charms for the new season. It created an image, and a story, that was used far and wide, at a time where the German team were very popular across the whole of Europe for their style.
Back in Britain, Scottish League One outfit, Ayr United, and their sponsors Bodog, clearly don’t think horticulture is the right way to catch their fans attention, so instead turned to the female form. Since 2012, they have unveiled their new strip by painting it onto a topless model in a shameless piece of promotion that continues to get coverage and attention, season after season, in the tabloid press.
However, this season, we’ve seen an outright favourite emerge for ‘Best Kit Launch’, using originality and creativity to catch the eye, Southampton hit all the right buttons with their #MadeForHeroes campaign. Alongside sponsors, Under Armour, the Saints put out an 80’s style cartoon in two parts on the club’s Twitter, that saw four of their key players take on superpowers to get the kit back from an evil villain, which more than vaguely resembled former boss Ronald Koeman.
A fun piece of content that was unlike anything we’d seen before from a Premier League club, created by a forward-thinking brand for a club with big ambitions. The video built hype for fans of all ages, drawing on the hero status of their biggest players, and the nostalgic element for older fans, delivered in all areas to unveil, probably, one of the smartest kits in England’s top division for the 2017/18 season.