By Brad Rees, Chief Executive Officer at Mediacells
Some fans might think that having more team shirt styles than players is excessive – like top flight Serie A club S.S.C. Napoli who are about to launch their thirteenth kit of the 21-22 season.
The trend in club kit variants has exploded this season and the Fourth Kit, typically a celebration of an event, is now commonplace in big club merchandising.
The ultra-productive partnership between youth Armani brand EA7 and Napoli frames this fresh, lucrative crossover between sport and fashion.
Napoli now offer a range of home, away, third and fourth shirts for national and Europa leagues plus three special commemorative Maradona shirts.
The Halloween kit was worn in top flight matches, with a limited edition of 1,926 shirts available, a reference to the year the Neapolitan club was founded.
Fashion and Football have an enduring, emotional history, from the Admiral days of the 1970s when the addressable audience was mostly football-crazy men and boys.
Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain have deepened their collaboration with Nike Jordan, unveiling a new Chicago Bulls-inspired fourth kit which will be worn by the Men’s first team for the latter half of the 2021-22 season.
Brand collaboration is one thing but positive fan endorsement is of course key to grassroots adoption.
The native Napoli Instagram posts which promoted the 12 shirts attracted an impressive 1.5 million fan engagements.
The sentiments contained in the reactions were variable, depending on the kit iteration.
Over 1 million reactions related to Kit #10 Flames which had to wait in line behind the Halloween vibe and the three, soon to be four, Maradona tribute shirts.
The high profile Flames launch in January had more than a hint of comedy fashionista movies Zoolander or Bruno about the communications. Flames, apparently, is “dedicated to the love felt for the great Napoli team; a love and passion that fuels and feeds the competitive fire of the club’s warriors out on the field of play.”
Fan sentiment is generally good-hearted and the mega kit range is deployed on social media as banter against rival Serie A teams. Upon the announcement of the Flames kit, the fan conversation took on a spirit of its own.
A self-confessed ‘Ultra’ (hardcore fan) proclaimed, “Let’s make another one to equal the points of (bottom of the league) Salernitana.”*
The 13th kit will be a red iteration of the current Maradona range and debuts at home against AC Milan. Fans reacted incredulously that they would not play in their signature blue home colours, like this Instagram comment:
“Only we could play AC Milan at home in a red shirt!”*
The controversial ranges may feel like sell-outs to hardcore fans but the Maradona kit sold out within hours.
The Napoli kit conversation is the third hottest Instagram topic in the first quarter of 2022, trailing compelling matchday posts and club celebrations only.
Football shirts are the ultimate merchandise which fans will never resist. If the hyper shirt roll-out is a success it is in spite of the fans’ better judgment, but as Nick Hornby puts it in Fever Pitch,
“I fell in love with football as I was later to fall in love with women: Suddenly. Inexplicably. Uncritically. Giving no thought to the pain or disruption it would bring with it.”
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