It’s often said that one’s favorite soccer team is forever. Which might be true for the 736 million fans that soccer has reportedly attracted in 2017 across 18 surveyed markets, according to a study released by American measurement and data analytics company Nielsen.
The number translates into a big opportunity for companies across different categories and especially for fashion brands supplying off-the-field uniforms and developing co-branded capsule collections, to bank on soccer’s global relevance and possibly tap into new customers.
For instance, Thom Browne joined the arena last year by crafting for the first time the off-the-field tailored and formalwear uniforms of FC Barcelona with a deal covering the next three years, while Hugo Boss has renewed its partnership with the AS Roma, FC Bayern, Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur and Paris Saint-Germain teams.
Some remain skeptical. “As a marketing tool, I’m uncertain about the return on investment. First of all, there’s a target issue: Are fans of soccer teams target customers for these brands?” wondered Alessandro Maria Ferreri, chief executive officer of The Style Gate consultancy firm. He noted that brands are often putting a lot of money and efforts into these partnerships with little guarantee of return.

While both storied American company Brooks Brothers and Trussardi settled on longstanding partnerships — now in their sixth seasons — with Milan-based soccer teams Inter and Turin’s Juventus, respectively, Ferreri believes than more often than not partnerships are “not conceived as mid- or long-term strategies, they’re more like one-shot,” coming amid a multitude of other marketing initiatives with celebrities. Yet Bogianchino underscored that “sport holds an intrinsic emotional value, which can hardly be found elsewhere.”

Although Ferreri acknowledges the cool factor and sexiness of soccer players as examples of today’s masculinity, he is conversely convinced that “endorsing the whole team, which is a fragmented entity, dilutes the message.”
“If you want to immediately give the audience an idea of the prototype of customer you’re trying to engage, you need to make things easier. The more easily you identify your brand with a standard of masculinity and therefore lifestyle, the more effective the message is,” Ferreri contended. One such example can be seen in Philipp Plein’s decision to name Argentinian-born Inter player Mauro Icardi as one of the brand’s ambassadors, as well as in fast-fashion retailer H&M debuting an intimates capsule collection designed by David Beckham.