Last night, the United States Men’s National Team premiered their new away kits in their 2-2 draw versus Mexico. The match coincided with the release of the uniforms which were officially announced this week. The latest kits are a major event for both the National Team and Nike.
For the team, it’s a representation of the nation at the world’s largest sporting event. A global audience tunes in and sees the United States team; to the common eye, consciously or unconsciously, what the team wears is a symbol of American culture and society. From the manufacturer’s perspective, this challenge is a major opportunity for Nike, especially in an American market, where average income and spending habits make the United States a major market for the Company and their soccer division. Nike’s (NKE) stock price over the past twelve months is up 26%, despite losing some momentum in the first three months of 2014 (down 5%). In a World Cup year, Nike needs to take the opportunity to deliver to shareholders for a solid nine months to regain their positive trending stock price and overturn their recent drop. As usual, they’ll turn to their stellar marketing efforts to drive sales.
It appears that the strategy for the World Cup and the United States Men’s team is a sort of cross-promotion. More specifically, they’re using the images of celebrities and professional athletes not involved in soccer to promote their latest kit release. According to Nike:
In a portrait series led by Clint Dempsey and Sydney Leroux, a group of notable athletes and fans were photographed wearing the new kit to show their support for the team. Included are football players Andrew Luck and Ndamukong Suh; skateboarders Eric Koston and Sean Malto; track and field gold medalist Allyson Felix; former U.S. National Team member Alexi Lalas; music producer Diplo; musicians HAIM; and one of Brooklyn’s finest filmmakers Spike Lee.
As previously discussed, Nike is known for their marketing excellence in the soccer world. Therefore, a change in approach is intriguing, but not an unfamiliar venture in soccer as of late. In the past two years, EA Sports & FIFA have cross-promoted using celebrities outside the realm of soccer to expand their reach, build additional credibility, and reach potential customers previously not interested in the FIFA game series. Specifically, the FIFA game promotion included rappers Snoop Dogg, Drake, A$AP Rocky and Swizz Beatz, alongside Victor Cruz of the New York Giants. If you’ve never liked FIFA, you might think about trying it out if you see your favorite rapper or professional athlete professing their allegiance to it.
FIFA is an incredibly successful franchise, consistently a best-seller and even popular with those not fans of soccer. Given EA’s success with the game, it might be a reason behind Nike’s strategy. As is customary during any World Cup, people from all aspects of society join the movement of supporting the country’s team. In recent years, this has been extremely evident in America for both the Men’s and Women’s competitions. It might be that Nike is trying to catalyze the process, and get fans excited about it earlier.
It’s thought-provoking to see the likes of an All-American quarterback, a famed filmmaker, or an electronic music producer wearing the stars-and-stripes next to Dempsey. It embodies the latest trend of the spirit of the World Cup, where for four weeks in America, people from all aspects of life, whether or not they follow soccer, stop what they are doing and emotionally attach themselves to the team.
Nike’s latest USA kits – home and away- have received mixed reviews. However, their marketing, even a subtle campaign not bolstered by TV commercials and fanfare, continues to be a standard of excellence in the soccer market.