An open window to riches

World Cup is a chance for kit-makers to sign deals worth millions

An open window to riches

The fashion stakes will be high in Brazil for the next four weeks and it’s not just the players, their wives and girlfriends who will be setting the pace at the World Cup finals.

As the hosts line up against Croatia in the opening match on Thursday in Sao Paulo it will also signal the kick-off of a fierce brand war which has been gaining momentum in recent years. The strips worn in the first World Cup in 1930 when players in Uruguay wore simple jerseys and shorts made of natural fibres seem from another world.

It’s now a multi-billion dollar global industry, using the most sophisticated technology and fibres with light-weight compression jerseys aimed at helping players’ muscle recovery.

The 32 kit deals are worth a combined $375 million a year with France having the most lucrative — a $60.5 million a year sponsorship contract with Nike — as England’s deal with the American group is worth an annual $42 million.

Germany have the third-biggest deal with Adidas, ahead of Brazil, reigning world and European champions Spain, Italy, and Russia.

The amount of the sponsorship deal relates to a nation’s ability to sell shirts across the demographic spectrum, with the kit not just a uniform but something that encapsulates style, tradition and national pride.

France coach Didier Deschamps won the World Cup as captain at home in 1998 and admits “the passion” of representing your country is hard to match. “It’s an enormous pride ... it’s history,” said Deschamps.

It’s a lucrative business too. Once the action gets underway fans will be rushing to wear their teams’ jersey, and the longer they stay in the tournament the better for the brands with an estimated 10 million replica shirts set to be sold for the finalists.

Nike, Adidas and Puma are the three main kit suppliers in Brazil with little known Burrda, Uhlsport, Joma, Marathon and Lotto also present.

Nike have 10 teams, one more than Adidas while Puma have eight including Italy and a quartet of African teams — Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Despite the controversy over the high price of the England kit at £90 ($150) Nike football creative director Martin Lotti believes the retail price is not prohibitive.

“Over the years we have always done two kits,” said Lotti. “We have the on-pitch version which the athletes are wearing which only represents 1 percent of our line (£90 kits) so it gives the fans the chance to wear exactly what the players wear on the pitch if they want to buy it. Then the vast majority is £60 version which will be for mass market.” 

But don’t expect the colourful ensembles of the past in Brazil. FIFA regulations state that each team will have two different and contrasting colours — one predominantly dark and one light for its official and reserve kit — designed to help the referee clarify tackles and deflections. Some kits remain instantly recognisable.

Hosts Brazil have been wearing their iconic yellow and green shirts with blue shorts since losing the 1950 World Cup finals at home.

Argentina have been wearing white and light blue stripes as their home kit for nearly a century, while England’s white strip has evolved over the past 60 years.

With a dark red design and golden Adidas stripes, the Russian jersey harks to the days of the race for space with ‘Let’s Go’ printed, words used by Yuri Gagarin when he became the first man in space in 1961.

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