Adidas & Chelsea FC: More Than Just #Allin

“It is not just about wearing the shirt; it’s what you do in the shirt. For the fans. For the team. For the color and for the future.” 

 There are many “that time of the season” periods that come around every year.  There is the transfer silly season in both the summer and the winter, relegation and promotion battles, derby rivalries, international fixtures (and corresponding complaints), and who could forget my personal favorite, squeaky bum time.

With a league like the Barclay’s Premier League it’s always “that time of the season” for something and it looks like it’s that time of the season where clubs release their home kits for the upcoming season.

Gone are the days of two-year releases of kits, staggering home and away so that at least one was new every year.   Clubs no longer have in their charters that kits have a minimum of two seasons of use, except for Arsenal  but they haven’t updated it since 2010.  Besides Arsenal, every other club in the top 7 (Liverpool, Chelsea, City, Everton, Tottenham, United) states in their charter in some form or another that their home kits have a minimum one-year life cycle.

With Financial Fair Play pushing teams to maximize every revenue stream, and know perceived lack of demand, annual it change are here to stay.

With that, the final weeks of the season become the time for clubs to announce the release of what their fans’ favorite player will be wearing on the field next season. While the clubs are certainly involved in the release, in some cases hosting an event around it, many times it’s the kit manufacturer that handles the marketing around promoting the new kits.

The marketing message has become fairly straight forward in the appeals.

There’s usually the team presentation of the kit either through a public unveiling accompanied by a behind-the-scenes esque youtube video of the photo shoot with player feedback on what they think of the kit.

Nike may be the kings of teaser and coordinated marketing strategy (Warrior didn’t do too bad either), but when it comes to kit releases they tend to stay inside of the box.   Adidas tends to be the more ambitious with their kit release approach.

In recent years Adidas has opted for an eclectic and wide variety of fan appeals in terms of their kit marketing strategy though it usually boils down to making the fan feel like a member of the starting XI.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwqD4Wmel4A]

 

This ad as well as AC Milan‘s take direct approaches to their kit appeals, essentially saying what has always been said about wearing a team’s colors: Wear this and you become part of the team.

FC Bayern does a similar but reverse strategy by humanizing their players. The video shows players joking around, laughing and acting like any other person would, except they’re FC Bayern players, making them more identifiable with the fan base.

These are all top title contending, if not holding, teams in their respective leagues and yet London’s Chelsea FC remains the only club the past two years where Adidas has really pulled out all the stops in terms of creativity and coordination.

Last year’s “It’s Blue: What Else Matters” campaign was unprecedented in terms of the amount of build up and teaser material put out by Chelsea and Adidas but mainly for the fact that the campaign was a push to get fans to pre-order the kit without seeing what it actually looked like.

The campaign started with a teaser, which lead to the revelation of the campaign itself.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9kAH2v9200]

It pushed boundaries and definitely caught the eyes of Chelsea fans as well as fans of other clubs.  This year they’ve done it again.

Instead of painting players blue, they’ve cast them in molds and made blue statues of them. “Forever Blue“, just like “What Else Matters” takes the standard unveiling and be a member of the team message and flips it upside down.

Starting with another teaser, this campaign doesn’t make fans gamble and buy a kit without knowing what it looks like.  But with fan’s remembering the intrigue of last year’s campaign, surely Adidas now has profiles and information on many more Chelsea fans than before thanks to the teaser sign-up push which rewarded fans with an early viewing.

Last year the message seemed to be a split between “trust us it’s gonna be good” and naturally “if its Chelsea, and its blue, you don’t have to worry what it looks like”, or “its blue what else matters?” for short, harnessing a similar fan passion for the club that traditional kit campaigns and unveilings do, but coming at it from behind.

With “Forever Blue” Adidas came to understand that more than just tying a fan to the team, a jersey has nostalgia value for the fan.  Beyond the personal experience that is associated with when the fan wore the kit, fans have a nostalgia for past victories won by the team in certain kits.  For example, with Chelsea, their 2011/12 kit will always be the Champions League winning kit.

This new campaign takes that and uses Mourinho’s captivating voice along with the statues to channel this nostalgia.  Every fan wants their team to succeed but this campaign makes the fan want the team to succeed in this kit and therefore want the kit so that they’re wearing it when the team does succeed.

Maybe Chelsea is a high profile testing ground for this new kind of kit marketing strategy, or maybe they’re really pushing for Chelsea to surpass Manchester United’s 1.4 million unit annual sale number. Adidas doesn’t seem to get the same innovative credit that Nike enjoys as far as advertising is concerned but the German sportswear giant seems to have crafted something successful with the Blues.

Hopefully we get to see this kind of work done with Adidas’ other major contracts with Madrid, Milan and Bayern.  They may not be blue,  but their Blanco, RossoNeri and Red.

Reporting on the business side of the world's game.