Umbro, another casualty of THAT MODERN FOOTBALL?

9 07 2013

If you’re one of those people that doesn’t take an interest in the unveiling of new kits let me tell you about something that I have noticed; umbro don’t seem to be making kits anymore.

Twelve months ago things were very different, umbro were everywhere! England, Ireland and Sweden wore umbro in Euro 2012. Man City and Lille won their national leagues in umbro, Atheltic Bilbao reached the Europa League final in umbro. Last August Southampton, Blackburn Rovers, Nottingham Forest, Rangers, Huddersfield Town, Cowdenbeath, Peru, Peterhead, Wales and New York Cosmos all proudly word umbro.

The only teams from the above list still wearing umbro are Wales, Ireland and Peru. It’s enough to make you wonder whether umbro have gone bust.

A simple reason explains why umbro aren’t supplying many kits at the moment, the existence of nike inc. It’s not just that England, Man City, Athletic Bilbao, Blackburn, Lille and New York Cosmos have all switched to Nike since May, it’s that nike bought, filleted, then sold on the carcass of umbro, events that are described in anodyne business-speak in this article ;

“Iconix Brand Buys Nike’s Umbro Soccer Unit for $225 Million

By Matt Townsend & Leslie Patton – Oct 24, 2012 9:15 PM GMT+0100

Iconix Brand Group Inc. (ICON) agreed to acquire Nike Inc. (NKE)’s Umbro sports apparel and footwear unit for $225 million in cash.

The deal is expected to close by the end of the year, New York-based Iconix said in a statement. Nike bought Umbro, which was founded in 1924, in 2008 for about 302 million pounds ($483.7 million), according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The sale is part of Nike Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker’s push to focus on the business units with the most growth potential and profitability. Nike, based in Beaverton, Oregon, previously announced it’s also trying to sell its Cole Haan unit of dress-shoe stores.

Nike rose 0.1 percent to $92.89 at the close in New York. The shares have lost 3.6 percent this year.

The deal will end one of the many acquisitions that hasn’t panned out for the world’s largest maker of sporting goods. Nike has also bought and then sold the Starter apparel brand and Canstar Sports Inc., maker of Bauer hockey gear. The one bright spot has been Converse, which has flourished under Nike’s control.

Back in 2008, Umbro appeared to be a good fit because it gave Nike more customers in Europe as it tried to reach its goal of surpassing Adidas AG (ADS) as the world’s largest soccer company.

Umbro also had a long-standing deal with the England national soccer team to supply its uniforms. In a statement announcing the deal, Parker touted the new relationship as a “dynamic alignment” that would make Nike the world leader in soccer.

Hopes Faded

Those hopes faded when the England squad failed to qualify for the 2008 European Championships finals, prompting a decline in sales. From there, results didn’t improve, forcing Nike to write down the value of the unit by $240.7 million in 2009.

Before making the deal Nike did retain some of Umbro’s most valuable assets when it moved Umbro’s sponsorship deals with England and Premier League champion Manchester City to the Nike brand. Nike will be discussing next steps with other teams sponsored by Umbro and some may transfer, Mary Remuzzi, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. Umbro also makes the uniforms for the national teams from Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.

Umbro’s sales in the fiscal year ended May 31 grew 17 percent to $262 million after being little changed in the previous year. When Nike announced it planned to sell Umbro in May, analyst Chris Svezia of Susquehanna Financial Group said it wasn’t profitable.

The Umbro and Cole Haan units had a combined loss of $43 million before interest and taxes in fiscal 2012 and would lose as much as $75 million if owned for all of fiscal 2013, Nike has said.

Iconix bought the Starter brand from Nike in 2007 and also owns the Candie’s, Joe Boxer and Rocawear brands.”

This is the thing about nike; strip away their aspirational bullshit of positivity and all that’s left is hard-nosed cynicism. The only reason nike wanted umbro was to divest them of their client list.

“Back in 2008, Umbro appeared to be a good fit because it gave Nike more customers in Europe as it tried to reach its goal of surpassing Adidas AG (ADS) as the world’s largest soccer company ……………………… Before making the deal Nike did retain some of Umbro’s most valuable assets when it moved Umbro’s sponsorship deals with England and Premier League champion Manchester City to the Nike brand. Nike will be discussing next steps with other teams sponsored by Umbro and some may transfer, Mary Remuzzi, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.”

From one perspective some might wonder what the issue is; a swoosh has replaced a couple of diamond on the front of football shirts big deal, all these companies are just the same aren’t they?

The situation is deeper than these surface trifles, it’s a symptom of a free-market capitalism that blights and poisons human society. The fact that someone in an air-conditioned office near Seattle is actually willing to put the nebulous ideal of market share above the social costs of potential factory closures without blinking is quite a revolting situation. I find it hard not to detest cynicism involved in this behaviour.

Even without applying Marxist politics to it this situation isn’t particularly pleasant. We have a clash of two behaviours. Nike’s gimmicky shirts made from plastic bottles versus umbro’s countless classic designs. Nike’s brash exhibitionism versus umbro’s traditions of craftsmanship -  every teams at the 1966 world cup wore umbro. Scotland wore umbro for 50 odd years and England wore umbro for over 70 years.

Whichever way you look at this situation THAT MODERN FOOTBALL has fucked things up again, more rich history is being consigned to the dustbin of history.

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The situation is incredibly sad if you consider it in isolation, when you realise what this rich history is being replaced with it’s too dispiriting to think about. Rich history is being replaced by……

A company that thinks it can change the culture of football with a new pair of football boots

“Football Design Director Denis Dekovic, began by looking at the attacking forces in today’s game. “The game is changing. It used to be that speed was the focus of the attacking side of the game, but now everybody has pace,” Dekovic said. “The Nike Hypervenom is a response to the way the game is changing. Players want to be quicker, not just in a foot race, but quicker with the ball at their feet in small spaces. They want to create chances from nothing. These faster, more agile defenders need to be combatted and the Hypervenom is designed to do exactly that.”

A company that thinks a promotional vehicle is an “incubator” of noble marketing  ideas ;

“During the crucial qualifying matches for football’s biggest tournament next year in Brasil, Korean football fans experienced the Nike Hypervenom boot through an unconventional vehicle before the Korean national team’s crunch showdown with Uzbekistan.   

On June 11, fans packed in front of the Seoul Sangam stadium were wowed by NIke Football’s new breed of attack — geared up inside an eight-wheel 11-ton industrial truck.

The Hypervenon Truck showed off the cutting-edge innovation of the Hypervenom boot by illustrating the design evolution of the boot, as if it were a new breed, and by presenting the truck as an incubator lab for the Hypervenom.”

……A company that celebrates its own brilliance with hagiographic videos and worships their own version of history;

“In 1998 Nike launched the first Mercurial football boot — a shoe inspired by and designed for an athlete who was playing an entirely new brand of football. The player was Brasilian football phenomenon Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, popularly dubbed “El Fenómeno,” but more commonly known as Ronaldo.

The tagline for the Nike Mercurial launch ad campaign, “Ultralight, so your legs can be as fast as your imagination,” spoke to Ronaldo’s unbelievable creativity and speed. Ronaldo not only captured the imagination with his style, speed, skill and instictive eye for a goal, but he also helped reignite the reputation of Brasilian football. His influence continues to guide exceptional players like Neymar as they follow in his footsteps.

Ronaldo is closely associated with the original silver-yellow-blue Nike Mercurial he wore in France during the summer of 1998. Among a field of black and white, the Nike Mercurial stood out for it’s sleek shape and colourful, speed-inspired visual design. To celebrate 15 years of the iconic boot, Nike has created a Mercurial Vapor IX inspired by the 1998 design.”

The last example crystalises the problems I have with nike. They not only apply the term “iconic” to a hideous boot, they apply the term “iconic” to a hideous boot that was worn for 7 matches by a player that was hardly an all-time world cup hero during the tournament. To cap it all they are brazen enough to celebrate a world cup in the which the final is shrouded by disquieting rumours about their conduct in relation to “their” star athlete.

The issues in this post and yesterday’s Coventry City-related events, events that Ian from 200% tells us about, is yet more proof that football is in the hands of wrong people.

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