Did you know that Spotify is collaborating with FC Barcelona – and the result is an interesting take on the classic football shirt?
We’re taking a look at the impressive deal between Spotify and FC Barcelona that has tongue and lip icons gracing the blue and red strips of 500 football fans. What other collaborations have made football history? What is the effect of a sponsorship on a strip? Are we likely to see more?
The Rolling Stones x FC Barcelona
The Rolling Stones has, arguably, the most iconic music icon that they can slap on anything. Spotify might have a logo, but it cannot compete with the recognisable, retro, universal appeal of one of the world’s biggest rock bands. So, it only makes sense that, when looking to sponsor FC Barcelona, they opted to add an extra piece of merch for the music fans that crossover with the sports fans.
Thus, a first of its kind was made: a football strip with a music logo at its centre. We’re used to airlines, we’ve seen beer brands, but no one had seen anything like the famous red tongue and lips logo on the centre of a football strip.
They were €400, they were only available on the FC Barcelona website store, and they were gone within three days of launch.
The collaboration between FC Barcelona and Spotify has injected a hefty amount of money into a club that was reportedly needing a financial boost – and they got one! The deal is supposed to offer the club €280 million over a four-year contract that includes the shirt and stadium naming rights. In fact, the Barcelona/Spotify deal is the third biggest in football history, right behind collaborations between Paris Saint-Germain with Qatar Airways and Real Madrid’s Fly Emirates deal.
What can other teams learn from this interesting take on the classic football sponsorship?
Offer more than a logo
On top of The Rolling Stones icon, Spotify is asking for a rename of the famed Camp Nou stadium to Spotify Camp Nou, which is following a relatively new trend of naming rights added to sponsorship deals. Arsenal has the Emirates Stadium, RB Leipzig has the Red Bull Arena, and now FC Barcelona has the Spotify Camp Nou.
This will not only be relevant to football fans. Any concertgoer, any tourist, any civilian simply looking for directions, will know the name of the Spotify Camp Nou. You can see why it’s caught on since 2003’s opening of Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. The power of words cannot be understated.
The time for sportswear is now
It’s no secret that streetwear has been the trending fashion for the past few years. We came out of lockdowns eager to get out but unwilling to change out of our joggies. Nowadays, it’s surprising to find someone in the club in heels. Trainers and little black dresses are the norm. The 90s came back, with all the baggy jeans, t-shirts under dresses and other tomboyish elements that you remember, and designers, seeing yoga pants and cycle shorts in every gaggle of girls at the shopping centre started making streetwear.
Particularly, sports brands that hadn’t been seen in decades are now retro. As well as the bigger names like Addidas and Nike, names like Gola, Puma and Champion re-emerged as fathers’ closets were ransacked for the jumper that they wore in a childhood photo.
Football strips slot nicely into that category, but the name of the game is “retro”. Yes, the 90’s are retro now, and the collared football strips are back. The strips that don’t feature the shiny polyester feel that lets the rain slick off, but instead, something you could happily get drenched in during a game of five-a-side in the local field. The strips that have that beer you’ve never tasted printed in the middle of the shirt.
To make football shirts as merch appealing to more than football players, Spotify has cleverly targeted a cross-section of football fans, music fans, and fashion fans. To make football merchandise that is genuinely fashionable in its own right is a great marketing strategy. AC Milan knows it due to its collaboration with streetwear brand OFF-WHITE, and Ajax has proved it with its collaboration with Daily Paper.
Create a moment in history
Did you see that K-pop group STAYC showed up to a Texas Rangers (MLB) game wearing Old Firm Glasgow Rangers strips? Both were styled in red, white, and blue, so it was an easy mistake to make. They prompted plenty of giggles in the Central Belt, and also nostalgia and fashion inspiration. Not only were the strips they wore 90’s shirts, complete with the collar and the McEwan’s Lager logo but they were nicely cut into a crop top you couldn’t imagine your uncle sporting on the train to Ibrox.
Sure, it might have been an accident, but we bet there are other marketing teams wishing they had thought of it first.
Yet, this isn’t the first time Rangers has made headlines thanks to its strip sponsorship. Carlings famously sponsored both Rangers and their historic rival Celtic FC at the same time in 2003. It was the biggest sponsorship of any Scottish club at the time and was a noble attempt to unite the warring teams.
“During the Old Firm sponsorship, Carling has continued to build its positive image among 18-24-year-old Scottish men as a ‘winning’ and ‘uniting’ brand that is ‘on the way up’,” Davies said.
It was a smart move in that Rangers and Celtic might have had rivals on the pitch, but Carling was competing with no one for attention.
Where will this go?
The UK loves its football, and the football fans love their merch strips, therefore it really doesn’t take much of a push to make football shirts the most fashionable item again. The combination of new markets from Spotify, nostalgia from 90’s trends, and K-Pop stars cutting them into more fashionable outfits is more than enough to get past the shady look you might get for wearing an opposing team’s colours. It’s likely we’ll see another boom, or we’re in the middle of one, of football shirts as time goes on. Now that we’ve got nostalgic shirts and customised shirts, we’re likely to see a wider range of styles and premium shirts that will appeal to a younger and wider demographic.