This morning’s news that we’re on the verge of securing a new kit deal sparked a few twitter conversations and debates. Mainly because most people were wondering who the hell Warrior actually were. They may be better known in America; but over here a lot of people were sat scratching their heads.
Now the goods news is that, from a financial perspective, the deal looks to be very good. £25m per year blows away Manchester United and Nike’s record deal and will certainly help fill the coffers as Anfield. Coffers which may soon have the additional pressure of no European football, for at least one season.
If you look at the deal from a brand perspective though, it looks like a better deal for Warrior. They may be paying for the privilege, but I imagine they are quietly patting themselves on the back at such a coup. Attracting a joint venture with a brand as big as Liverpool FC.
I’m confident that FSG and the club know what they are doing. It is entirely plausible this is the right deal for the club, at the right time. The need to increase revenues outweighing the potential damage to the club’s brand. You see what we have is a match which doesn’t quite look right. Imagine Prince William marrying one of those daughters from my big fat gypsy wedding next week. Ok, maybe I’m being a little harsh. But the fact remains that Warrior have had to pay some big money to have the privilege of supplying our kits. (I’m sure if the Gypsy folk had the money they’d of tried tapping Wills up.)
When it comes to the leading marques in sport, even Warrior’s owners New Balance look like the poor relations. According to Wikipedia New Balance’s revenues total $1.55bn with 4,000 employees. Quite a sum, but when compared to Nike ($19bn and 34,000 employees) and Adidas ($12bn 42,000 employees) the gulf becomes very evident. In fairness New Balance’s figures were from 2006; but unless they doubled every year they’ll still be miles behind. [Update: I'm reliably informed New Balance's current revenues are $1.65bn]
Then consider the branding work undertaken by the likes of Nike and Adidas. The flashy adverts, sponsorship deals and other brand associations place them clearly at the pinnacle of the sporting good manufacturers. The question is, should we be accepting an association with a company most reds had never heard of until this morning?
I’ve seen the comments of ‘who cares about branding’. To the core of the reds support based in the UK who makes the kit is not as important. But our world wide appeal is very important to the club’s future. There is also those casual kit buyers, of which I am one. If I see a nice Barcelona kit I buy it and it’s the same for international kits. Will we sell as many kits in the UK? Quite possibly. Are we likely to see a reduction in the number of kits sold abroad, especially if they don’t get the design right? Quite possibly.
Flagship brands have to associate themselves with other flagship brands. If they don’t then they run the risk of damaging their own brand.
Arsenal F.C. – O2 and Nike
Manchester United – AON and Nike
Chelsea – Samsung and Adidas
Liverpool – Standard Chartered and Warrior
Which name looks like the odd one out?
All may not be lost though. In much the same way as I said FSG should bring a fresh approach to Liverpool FC, maybe Warrior should bring a new approach to kit design. An approach which will see the fans more involved in the actual design of the kit. It has always puzzled me why the design of such a standard commodity as a football shirt has to be kept under cover and designed by a closed group.
It’s not an idea of my own, as Gareth Roberts (@robbohuyton) of Well Red Magazine first put the thought in my head. But maybe the new fans committee, which will branch out to large groups of fans, could play a key role in the design of the new kits. With a majority of fans having the final say when presented with a range of kits. The technology exists and the club already runs polls. Why can’t FSG (with Warrior) again take a different approach?
This is not a major disaster and like I say it is quite possibly the right decision, in the current circumstances. However it also feels like a downgrading of our kit supplier to me, even if we’re getting more money for that downgrading. The best should associate themselves with the best, this deal does not do that.