The global soccer kit market is no place for children. It's a no-holds-barred, smash-mouth industry featuring big dollar deals and intense sales wars, complete with stories of betrayal after a 50-year relationship. Our love for this soap opera is evident at the start of each domestic club season, when we shell out dollar after dollar on the latest shirts. Suckers, we are, for new slogans, hidden patterns and "wearable technologies".
It's consumerism at its most hyped and marketing at its best. In the past, it was normal for teams to have a jersey for several years. Now, it's hard to find a major club that doesn't launch at least one new kit each season.
The global market for kit sales is a multi-billion dollar industry. According to Reuters, the value of the international sector is $6.7 billion. That's more than a third of the entire gross domestic product for World Cup-bound Honduras. Ditto for Bosnia and Herzegovina, another country that punched its ticket for Brazil.
Although there's a case that the overall value of sales for club shirts far exceeds that of international kit sales, it's hard to argue that the World Cup isn't the single greatest marketing opportunity for global sportswear giants. More than 45 percent of the world's population tuned in to some part of the the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. If you consider that just 32 teams will play for these massive global audiences, each on multiple occasions, it's easy to see how kit deals for World Cup participants represent one of the best dollar to viewer values there is for marketers.
So who will win the race to outfit the most teams at next World Cup? Currently, the front runner is Nike. The little chart below provides a brand-by-brand breakdown of the kit providers based on our research.
There may be some discrepancies, however. For example, several reports from Ghana suggested that the Black Stars will be decked out by Kappa next summer, despite having a deal already in place with Puma. We opted to go with Puma as Ghana's supplier because the rumor centers around a change to Kappa's Wikipedia page, so these reports are suspect at best. Even so, it shows the silly nature of the kit sponsorship world.
National football federations are businesses too. So it's understandable why World Cup 'underdogs' like Bosnia, Ecuador, and Costa Rica all have yet to announce release dates for their World Cup kits. They're holding out. Nike? Adidas? Maybe Warrior will swoop in? These clubs could play just 270 minutes on the World's stage next summer. Whoever their sponsors are, they'll make every second worth it.