As an A list celebrity amongst the football shirt fraternity, a new England shirt release has always been a ‘hyped up’ occasion.
The launch of the latest England away shirt was no exception.
Umbro knew they were on the verge of making big news; the first non-red England away shirt 15 years, 3 successful previous shirts under their new ‘Tailored by Umbro’ banner.
All it needed was a big launch.
But what happens when a launch doesn’t go to plan?
We’ve heard such stories before; last season’s Aston Villa kits were delayed due to a problem with the sponsor and adidas are currently facing a nationwide boycott over the pricing of the New Zealand All-Blacks Rugby jersey.
So where did things go wrong for one of the biggest shirt launches of the year?
Pre Launch – In the Ring
Never afraid to court publicity, this latest offering was first seen on the back of English heavyweight boxer David Haye.
A teaser showing the then-champ hammering a punching bag with shadows obstructing the new kit was trickled out across Umbro’s Facebook and Twitter Pages, before being sighted on websites and newspapers across the world.
Images would be released before hand, but the first glimpse the world would get of the new England away shirt in the flesh would be on Haye as he strode down to the ring in Germany; an English hero going head-to-head with a heavily-favoured opponent on foreign soil.
The idea was excellent, the message gutsy and the mental imagery evoked the ‘England Away’ tagline. But above all, the idea was a big gamble.
If David Haye had beaten Wladimir Klitschko, the new England away shirt would have benefited from the euphoria associated with having an English champ.
It could have stretched the shirt beyond the football terrace and been associated with a ‘Victorious England’.
As it turned out, David Haye lost the bout.
Worse still he didn’t fight like a true warrior. Haye then blamed the loss on an injured little toe.
On Sale – On the Pitch
The second phase of the New England away shirt campaign was the day the shirt was officially available on sale, i.e. the day you can go into a shop and buy one.
A launch date was arranged to coincide with England hosting Holland in a friendly game at Wembley; England would wear the jersey for the first time, showing the public how good it looks against a team that just 12 months prior had battled hard against Spain in the World Cup final.
Once again, lady luck was not on the side of the Umbro marketing team – Due to the rioting in London the match was cancelled.
All the promotional materials went out as planned. Terry, Carroll & Co. stood defiantly against a now-ominous firey backdrop that was intended to elicit the flares, smoke and hostility of playing on foreign turf – now reminded English fans more of the scenes in Tottenham than Turkey.
Post Sale – Success?
The way the campaigns surrounding the release of this Blue England away shirt have gone is a real shame.
Whilst this article has only focused on the negative side of the new England away shirt‘s launch (to be fair, negative is all we’ve had to go on!) we think there’s a success story yet to be had for Umbro.
Why? The shirt.
Although purists will say the England away shirt should be red, this is the best England Shirt Umbro have released since the first plain white ‘Tailored By’ England Home Shirt.
Some people buy every England shirt that is released. Some buy one in the run up to a World Cup or European Championship.
However, for those who buy an England Shirt when they see one that looks good, this is the one.
The two stages of the launch – so far – may have been tough for Umbro to swallow, but ultimately such a good looking football shirt will not be denied – stressing the fact that a good product will still be bought, even if the PR storm surrounding it is reduced to a bluster.
Umbro have demonstrated the typically-English importance of keeping a stiff upper-lip. Or, in this case, a stiff upper kit.