The story of how soccer jerseys come to life

The countless kit launches appear to be over for another year, but the process is already underway to produce next season’s soccer jerseys. -pressure, but lucrative industry.

Manchester United signed a 10-year £ 750million contract with Adidas in 2015, while Nike and Paris Saint-Germain have a partnership until 2032 worth € 80million (€ 69million). pounds sterling) per year for the French club.

Recent transfers have raised the profile of both clubs, who are already considered part of the European elite, with the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to United and the signing of superstar Lionel Messi for PSG inevitably leading to a huge discussion about sales of football shirts.

FanaticsUnited’s official business partner has revealed that it took just four hours for Ronaldo’s No.7 replica shirt to break the single-day sales record on a non-football sporting item. ‘North America.

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Meanwhile, searches for LoveSales claimed that Ronaldo’s jersey sales totaled £ 187million worldwide before he even kicked a ball, with United earning £ 13.1million from that amount, while Messi’s shirt sales were £ 103.8million to win £ 7.3million for PSG.

As supporters line the block for kits, or more commonly add them to their shopping cart online, the brains of the manufacturing companies are already talking about next season’s jerseys, hoping to charm them again.

It’s a labor of love, but with the pressure of knowing that the end product will be on display around the world.

From design to kit launch – a 20 month process

“Every season we start completely from scratch,” said Andrew Dolan, product manager at Adidas specializing in football clothing. I.

“We work from a blank canvas that we then fill with ideas and inspiration, whether it’s in the clubs we work with, the city they’re in or through modern culture, we’re really looking for everywhere this spark which can give us an idea.

“We of course try to include the clubs as much as possible, to make sure that we stay true to their DNA, while not offending the loyal fan bases, but we also have to try to push the football kits towards it. future, rather than always looking back for inspiration.

“Typically, the process takes about 20 months from start to finish, with the design phase, sampling and testing, sharing ranges with our global markets, and then mass production.

The football shirt design process (Photo credit: Adidas)
It’s a 20-month process to create a football kit (Photo credit: Adidas)

“It’s a long process; from the initial idea to the final kit in the field and making sure it is available for purchase anywhere in the world, but also extremely rewarding.

The pressure has increased in the age of social media, with the consumer ready to rate or offer every kit that comes off the production line.

There’s no such thing as pleasing everyone either. Liverpool’s third kit was alongside “Ronald McDonald” and “Five Guys” when it was unveiled in September, but Ajax’s inclusion of three little birds on the back of his Bob Marley-inspired third kit has been widely worshiped.

“Pressure is obviously part of the job,” adds Dolan. “Everyone who works in this industry knows exactly how important and relevant their work is to the fan bases of the clubs they work for.

“This is true not only now, but 20 or 30 years from now when people will still be talking about the kits we make today. It also means that it can be a huge benefit to have an element of ignorance. Not ignorant for a club or its fan base, but for the greatness of it all.

“The best marketers and designers aren’t the ones who think about how many jerseys they’ll sell or what people will say in the future, but those who try to create a product that has a purpose and meaning behind it. This is, ultimately, what will make what we create today, still relevant 30 years from now. “

On Ajax’s popular third kit, Dolan says, “The key to good kits is authentic storytelling. Any club can partner with Bob Marley, but the reason the collaboration with Ajax works so well is the authenticity that partner already had towards the club. [Ajax fans sing Marley’s “Three Little Birds” before kick-off every week].

Ajax’s third kit has received positive reviews (Credit: Adidas)

“We’ve seen so many crossovers over the past few seasons of football and culture, and I think it will only continue. We will always try to find authentic local stories to tell, with each of our clubs, to a global audience. The key is to stay grounded and always remember who we are creating for. “

“Arsenal’s kits have become cult”

Arsenal have partnered with Adidas since 2019, 25 years after their previous partnership ended.

The club are arguably creating the biggest fanfare when it comes to the launch of their kits, mainly because their designs have gone against the grain and focused on the fact that football kits can be all the rage too.

Having club legend Ian Wright on board helps, as does the profile of current players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and there is a seemingly natural buzz among fans when it comes to the launch of their kits.

Dolan says: “If we’re talking about specific clubs and I’m Adidas’ marketing counterpart for Arsenal, then it’s absolutely amazing to see the reaction to the kits this season.

“So far, they seem to have gained cult status, which is such an honor, but honestly, I couldn’t really have predicted that it would happen.

“Again, I think it depends on the storytelling behind each design. On the home kit we wanted to bring the most modern Adidas silhouettes and designs, using the seasonal collar and combining it with design inspiration from 1998, introducing more “Collegiate Navy” details than we did. have had so far with the partnership.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang models Arsenal’s third kit (Photo: Arsenal)

“On the kit on the outside, we knew we wanted to have a basic yellow design, but rather than tying to a particular kit design from the past, we wanted to link to a club icon, the two-time winner from 1971. , with the use of the barrel crest.

“For the third kit, perhaps Arsenal’s most disruptive kit this season, it seems to have really enjoyed the fans. We know that 90s football kits were now enjoying a renaissance with modern football fans. This era also coincides with some iconic Adidas designs from that era, so combining the two was a no-brainer. ”

Football shirts: the process

Step 1: Design and design

Marketers and designers are in constant dialogue with clubs regarding the new set of kits for the following season, while fan groups and consumers are also consulted during the design and concept phase.

“If we can find a hard-hitting message and purpose for each kit, then we will, but we’re also looking to modern trends to keep designs fresh and relevant to modern fans,” Dolan said.

“In general, our main focus is on our technology concepts, like Heat Ready and our 100% recycled polyester base materials. These are not just trends in the industry, but important goals that Adidas is committed to achieving across the company as part of our long term strategy, to be a 100 sports brand. % sustainable.

Some of the designers behind the Adidas jerseys (Photo: Adidas)
Man Utd’s third kit for 2020-21 (Photo credit: Adidas)
Adidas says there is a constant back and forth with the clubs when discussing the design of the kits (Photo: Adidas)
The first steps in the kit manufacturing process (Photo: Adidas)

Step 2: Manufacturing and production

A final design is signed between 10 and 12 months before a kit is launched, meaning that a select few will know how a club will form next season as the previous season kicks off, and almost certainly by Christmas.

Dolan adds: “Production then starts three to four months later, once all the final checks and tests have been completed. Factories also have to place orders for materials and plan their production capacities, mainly in Asia. We then have another three to four months to ship products around the world.

“There is so much going on after the initial design phase and club signings are done that people might not be aware of it. This is also why when some jerseys sell out quickly, it can take three to four months for them to come back in stock.

In September, Ajax confirmed that their sold-out third kit would not be back in stock until January.

Step 3: Launching the kit

When it’s ready to be unveiled to the world, every kit launch needs its time in the sun. This means a timely niche where clubs can reveal the kit on social media in the hopes that it starts trending for all the right reasons.

This isn’t always the case, but what is clear is that with every launch comes a story – and that takes time, too.

“Of course, not just the clubs, but at Adidas we want to give every club the time it deserves,” Dolan said.

“The strategy for each season is a little different; for example, there may be a particular home or away story that we want to tell in May or June, which means that particular team’s kit needs to be launched at that time.

“Or we could have a concept that is shared between the third kits, like this season’s kits for Arsenal, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Real Madrid, which all launched in August / September this year.

“There are many factors to consider when deciding launch dates, but we always try to give each club a specific time when they are the center of their minds. “


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