Can you remember the days, even in this modern and evermore digitalised century, when football teams used to wear new kit designs for a couple of seasons? Those days are gone for good. Clubs and brands like Adidas, Puma, Nike or Umbro offer fans new kit designs every single season. And not only for the home kits, but away or European shirts as well. As fanbases tend to grow thanks to broader international commitments and strengthened Social Media reach, any new kit will eventually find its customers. Of course, new signings or special players play a big part in generating revenue. But so do special kits; presented for the growing audience of gaming, mainly FIFA, enthusiasts, EA Sports’ and Adidas’ digital kits, that entered club shops last week, will stand the clubs in good stead not only in terms of visibility and nous in reaching important audiences but also concerning additional revenue – midway through the season.
Digital kits transform into real life value
Last week Adidas and EA Sports announced a limited edition of some rather special jerseys for Manchester United, Juventus Turin, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
It hasn’t been the first time that the german brand and the top name in sports gaming have collaborated to bring new kits to the fans’ attention.
While last season’s digital 4th kits were only a treat for FIFA 18 Ultimate TEAM (FUT), this season’s versions will be available in FUT 19 and in official club shops or stores. Since they come in a limited edition, they’re likely to be in demand. Especially due to their rather unique designs. Manchester United’s kit for example – which may look odd to some, brave to others – reminds one of bees, symbol of the iconic city. That bond between bees and Manchester had been strengthened when after the horrific terror attack in 2017 that very animal had become a symbol for solidarity; people had bee tattoos done, Manchester United and City played with a bee on their shirts. The connection is clear to see, although it looks more like a leopard dress and is described as such, too:
A bold jersey for the digital age.
Still, that shirt, sold for 82 Euros, will promise some further income. Not that Man Utd, Real Madrid, Bayern or Juve really need it. It’s just a clever way of marketing.
It also shows that the biggest brands in football do understand a thing or two about engaging a very important audience. Mind you, old and young fans alike like EA Sport’s FIFA, but for the younger generations the digital game probably has a more prevalent value; eSports comes more naturally to those Digital Natives growing up unconscious of the times when the digital landscape and football business hadn’t merged so utterly.
So, fans can buy that 4th kit from Bayern Munich for nearly 90 Euros, in the most basic version.
The designs, some might argue, are more or less questionable. But Jürgen Rank, who ist the Adidas senior design director, told Sueddeutsche Zeitung that unorthodox designs keep people interested and teams in the media. An English Hip Hop artist wanted to wear United’s 4th kit on stage right away.
Those jerseys might become valuable rarities or maybe they will be forgotten sooner rather than later. What’s most important to the teams or the brands behind them is not the shirt, not even the extra revenue or media coverage; it is the blend of digital and real life demand, digital and real life customers, and therefore the instrumentalisation of digital gaming’s popularity and its increased social meaning for the sake of a very real and eventually simplistic objective: keep the fans and grow the income.