Hummel’s stance on human rights in Qatar a strategic move, say industry experts

Sep 29 (Reuters) – Hummel’s decision to tone down details of Denmark’s World Cup kit in protest at Qatar’s human rights record was prompted by the company’s desire to be seen as a goal-oriented brand, industry experts told Reuters on Thursday.

The Danish sportswear company launched a red monochrome kit on Wednesday that camouflages its logo while launching Denmark’s all-black third kit, which it said stood for the “color of mourning”.

The launch was met with mixed reviews, with some praising the company for its stance and others dismissing it as a marketing stunt to boost sales ahead of a major tournament.

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Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and geopolitical economics at SKEMA Business School, said Hummel had positioned itself as a brand that embodies a set of values.

“The values ​​that Hummel seeks to communicate are northern European liberal values…the brand felt it had to do something that went beyond what others are doing in Qatar,” Chadwick told Reuters.

“But crucially, it’s not a blank shirt. The Hummel name is still there…so it’s a middle way – a way to raise awareness and target key audiences at the same time.”

Chadwick added that the message would resonate with millennials who may see this move as brave by a brand keen to speak out on serious issues.

Hummel, however, has drawn criticism for manufacturing in China – which produces more than 30% of its garments – in Pakistan and Bangladesh, countries where concerns over human rights and labor laws have been flagged. .

He also sponsored Qatari club Al Kharaitiyat.

“We are aware that some of these (countries) are also facing problems…on the other hand, we don’t think this is the right solution to stop our activity, because it would mean that a lot of people lose their job,” a Hummel spokesperson said.

“We sponsor teams all over the world. (But) that doesn’t take away from our goal of changing the world through sport.”


Football finance expert Kieran Maguire, who teaches at the University of Liverpool, believes brands cannot be completely virtuous in a modern production process.

“At the same time, if you take the do-nothing approach, then you’re in a race to the bottom,” he said.

“It’s not Hummel’s only decision. The fact that the Danish Football Association (DBU) badge has also been effectively monochrome out of the kit is indicative of the stance taken by them.”

Qatar World Cup organisers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, disputed Hummel’s statement that “the tournament claimed the lives of thousands”.

“There have been a lot of different interpretations about the actual number of casualties,” Hummel’s spokesman said, adding that the company had been in close dialogue with rights group Amnesty International.

“However, the most important thing… is the fact that there has been violence against basic human rights.”

Hummel’s positioning could lead to a dilemma for other kit sponsors at the World Cup, but they are unlikely to follow suit given their global presence, Maguire said.

Denmark are the only team to have Hummel as their kit manufacturer, while Nike and Adidas have contracts with multiple teams.

“Adidas and Nike have significant markets when it comes to Qatar,” Maguire added. “Furthermore, these kits are designed months in advance and although a last minute decision is not impossible, it will have to be agreed with the football associations.”

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Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond

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