It’s fair to say that football summer transfer windows are getting more ridiculous year on year. Between outrageous prices paid for unestablished talent, players buying their way out of their contracts or getting sidelined from both training and competition to pressure a move, and clubs spending monies that would sort world’s starvation for a fair amount of time, it’s no surprise sports marketing is known to steer away from that sensitive topic.
But how can you steer away from a topic generating tons of interest? Pundits and bookmakers are all over it, whilst deadline day hashtags are breaking the Twittosphere. And so, slowly, brands have started to make the most of the opportunity, because in any negative can be found a positive. Like with all things in marketing, it depends on the angle you take. Ask adidas, Pogba and Stormzy what they have to say about it.
Let’s take a recent example. For those who’ve been hiding in a bunker this summer, French Ligue 1 Qatar-funded Paris SG spent about £375m on 2 players: Neymar Jr and Kylian Mbappe (including Mbappe’s obligatory purchase loan clause and discounting the £14m for Yuri Berchiche arriving from Spain). That’s right, that’s £180m for each player and, even though they’re miles away in terms of notoriety and skill, maybe Nike’s decision to focus on Mbappe’s story says it all.
Let’s look at Neymar, the biggest ever transfer fee for arguably the 3rd most skilled and brandworthy footballer on the planet. Yet the announcement was fairly club-led (a press conference, an unveiling in the team’s stadium, shirts selling out at the club’s flagship store, and a Neymar-branded Eiffel Tower.
Whereas Nike – who will have all the time to bank in on Neymar’s success at PSG, starting with sold out shirts – decided to focus on a “home sweet home” story for Bondy-born Mbappe. The story of a young and modest kid from a rough Paris neighbourhood, who decided against the temptations of the likes of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona to go back to where it all began for him. And that’s just where Nike decided to do his unveiling: an artistically refreshed pitch, a tournament involving young kids aspiring to Mbappe’s success story, and a mural on one of the council blocks. Meanwhile PSG replicated their Neymar-like routine.
For the basketball fan out there, it’s not the first time Nike went deep in emotions. “Together” anyone? Again it’s all about the angle, and more importantly the story you want to tell. Going back to that Pogba unveiling stunt from adidas, there was a reason why it felt more of a show than a story to tell…