After months of speculation, a few leaks and a legal dispute between former partner Reebok and new NFL official kit supplier Nike, the Portland-based sportswear giant unveiled its new jersey designs on 3 April.
The official event, was a Nike-styled theatrical launch party in a Brooklyn film studio – described by some as an Apple-esque product launch in terms of style. The event format was something akin to a gridiron-themed fashion show with uniforms for all teams displayed both on mannequins and on a representative player from each franchise.
Nike main message at the event was that the design philosophy behind all 32 new NFL team uniforms has been driven not primarily by style, but by performance-led substance. With words such as functionality, mobility and breathability to the fore at the launch.
The unveiling, which took place at Steiner Studios in Brooklyn, will be followed later on 26 April with the public sale off the jerseys. A date timed to coincide with the interest around this year’s NFL Draft which will take place on the same day.
Nike is also introducing a video and integrated advertising campaign to promote the new NFL outfits and apparel later this month.
The five-year deal between the NFL and its new official kit partner comes after the league cut its ties with previous supplier Reebok.
The NFL recently explained the organisation’s decision to move from Reebok to Nike by claiming that whole Reebok was the right partner 10 years ago, it now wanted to innovate and refresh the image to match the renewed energy surrounding the sport, the league and its various elements such as the draft and overseas expansion plans.
“We think fans want quality. They want innovation. They will see that in the products, in the hats, in the jerseys. They will see that in all of the apparel. It starts with two partners coming in with other licensees to re-launch our whole apparel line,”.
“We believe in better. We believe our products can become more innovative and we’re doing this around the transition into their licensed products and also around the draft,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We’re just three weeks away from the draft and this is a time when fans are starting to focus on the next season and the merchandise that goes with it.”
In terms of style, Nike has gone for a somewhat sleeker look and the manufacturer’s logo on the new NFL uniforms has been kept fairly low key with the swoosh consigned to the upper outside arms on the jerseys and the hip on the pants (trousers).
The launch event was followed by an integrated speed-focused advertising campaign called ‘Fast Is Faster’. The background to the campaign reflects Nike’s mission to help football players to improve their speed.
The campaign features a slew of football stars including: Troy Polamalu, Calvin Johnson, Darrelle Revis, LeSean McCoy, Ndamukong Suh, Alex Smith, Larry Fitzgerald, and Marshawn Lynch, as well as NFL official Mike Carey.
The campaign was launched during this year’s draft and focused on a spearhead 60-second TVC which was pre-rleased on social media and then first aired between the draft’s first and second picks on ESPN. The initial rollout also includes NFL Network, ESPN Sportscenter, and NFL Live on ESPN. The spot will also run on Nike digital channels including Nike.com, NikeFootball.com and Nike Football’s facebook page, as well as YouTube.com, Xbox Live, ESPN.com, BleacherReport.com, Stack.com, and NFL.com.
For all its film and fashion industry razzmatazz, essentially this much heralded launch campaign was a fairly traditional PR led media junket.
Displaying none of the technically innovative and original tactics as, say, Manchester City’s recent in-game FIFA 2012 shirt launch in partnership with partner EA Sports and sponsor Etihad.
Furthermore, while the NBA has publicly admitted to the fact that it is considering sponsorship of its franchise jerseys, no such discussion has been admitted to at the NFL.
With the North American professional sports leagues retaining such a tight control over their franchises, and the salary cap limits ensuring some degree of financial fairplay, it seems that this current new generation of NFL outfits will remain free from the kind of sponsorship logos so prevalent across the rest of the world’s sports.
Indeed, at this week’s SMCC sponsorship conference in Canada, General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey team Brian Burke went so far as to suggest that putting sponsor logos on team jerseys would be the death of the Leaf’s brand integrity and values.