PRE-SEASON MATCH UP: PLAYERS V SPONSORS

So, what a week it’s been in the world of football boots! Topping the list of talking points has to be the John Terry ‘adidas vs Umbro’ battle (with ‘Chelsea vs. Man City’ undercurrents).' 

One debate that this convulted tale has thrown up is the idea of player obligation to their sponsor during the pre-season; in a perfect world a player would spend pre-season deciding what boots best suit him, decide which they love by the first game of the season and subsequently be sponsored for doing so; but as we all know this is not the case!

So when a player decides to ‘test drive’ a pair of boots from another brand in a training session or pre-season friendly there are many things that people can read into it; i.e. the player is not happy with his current boots or maybe his team-mate has recommended a pair that he feels would suit their style. But sometimes the reason is far more pedestrian, or in Umbro’s case; downright bizarre.

So, why all the fuss about a preseason kickabout – surely it’s the best time to try out other boots?

As a fan and boots anorak, I love to see players really considering their choice in boots in the summer months – placing the same amount of thought you or I do in what boot best suits their game. I’m a Leeds United fan (stop laughing/jeering at the back!) and during last year’s pre-season matches I watched Jermaine Beckford test 3 pairs of boots (f50.8, Vapor III and adiPure, for those interested) before settling on the tunit range for the rest of the season.

nike mercurial vapor iii

However, as difficult as it may be to summon sympathy for multi-billion pound conglomorates; is it fair on the sponsors to see players trailing another company’s wares? In short, no. While a player is signed to a boots company he really should be playing in their boots – pre season, summer tournament or mid-season.

It matters most'  for teams like Chelsea, Barcelona, AC Milan and Manchester United – where the pre-season usually involves some pretty far flung travels – so for sponsors of the players on these teams this is a great opportunity to see their boots reach a new audience – for example, during Real Madrid’s notorious 2003 pre-season of the Far East; can you imagine how many extra pairs of ‘Beckham-San’ colourway Predators adidas sold?


A great example of a happy medium is Ashley Cole’s recent trials of Puma’s speed boot, the v1.08, which has been a fantastic example of a player doing things respectfully – while his contract is up from negotiation, see which brand best represents his interests as a player and find out which boot that they produce that best compliments his style of play.

puma v1.08 ashley cole

Personally, I’d like to see that all sponsorship contracts run in terms of seasons, with the pre-season and post-season exempt from their contracts which I think would work on several levels:

Firstly, it’d be added incentive for the players – if they want additional sponsorship for the summer tournaments like World Cups, European Championships or Confederations Cup they’d obviously be having to play well enough to be selected for the national team.

This would also work well for the sponsors, as they wouldn’t be paying money for players to be wearing their boots who aren’t actually playing during the summer.

Secondly, it’d be a constant push for manufacturers to be at the top of their game – players are tied to boot manufacturers for years at a time, so they always get the latest models and colours but then you see Luka Modric and Yossi Benayoun playing in older versions of the Mercurial Vapor range and Kaka in modified adiPure I’s so they’re clearly not too bigger fans of the newer models. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what they really prefer playing in when there’s no money involved?

However – the Chelsea ‘Bootgate’ scandal was enough to get the Footy Boots users posting and speculating in droves, perhaps it’s hypocritical to say I don’t enjoy the rumourmill as much as everyone else!


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14 Comments

  • Thought provoking stuff Kyle, it would be very interesting to see which brand the players would wear through choice alone.

    From a contractual perspective alot of players are signing endorsement contracts on this time line already, with an expirey date in July/August.

    The majority of players will have a clause inserted when the end of the deal aproaches, that provides a 6 month window for them to renegotiate with other brands whilst wearing the existing sponsors boots. Similar to a first refusal.

    There are heavy fines in place to deter players from wearing other brands in training or competitive fixtures.

    Rightly so in my opinion, dont align yourself to one company accept the terms and change your mind later. Be professional address the problems you face and build for the future – key reason for players like Kaka / Beckham / Ronaldo sitting at the top of the endorsement tree.

  • Cheers for the comments all, especially Jimmy J – what can I say mate; we all have our flaws!

    Sir Prance Alot – thanks for the insight, when I was writing this I was thinking about how much I’d love to see the actual legal wording on a player’s sponsorship contract. It’s great to have such well thought-out insight!

  • Did you know that young Savio Nsereko of West Ham is also trying out the new V1.08s and last season he wore adipures. He was also one of the 80 footballers that helped to make the Vapor 111’s.

    Kyle, Do you think a footballer like him gains sponsorship from brands???

  • If i remember correctly, Valsport did some “gonzo” endorsements back in the nineties with certain players during big televised matches. I wonder if this still goes on behind the scenes? I have also seen pictures of players with other logos fastened to the side of their boots even though the sole unit gives away what kind of boot it really is.

  • Contractually, the benefit of long term deals, at least over a season would be the percentages that the player would actually realize, that is after considering the fees associated with agents and representatives. The more contracts that need to be drawn up, the less the player will actually see.

    Also, short contracts prevent a player from getting involved in R&D and creating those relationships.

    Great piece though. Good read.

  • this is truly an article for someone really interested in boots, and none others. I LOVE IT!!! i think it actually does matter what boots the players are wearing during the pre-season and summer tournaments because those are the big ones that EVERYBODY watches. you don’t see average americans tuning in every saturday to the Prem. you see them watching the world cup and going to the games of the teams when they’re in the States. the hard-core fans are the ones who already have football boots and don’t need convincing. the people who are just coming into the sport are the ones that need lobbying and those are the ones who only tune in to the big matches like the world cup, the Euros, and pre-season friendlies in their area that they go to.

  • I like the thoughts here, but realistically the whole point of the endorsement is to never be seen wavering on what choice boots you’ll wear. The confidence of the star translates into confidence for the buyer. To appear testing other boots has to be to the detriment of the brand. The technique of player endorsements has to premised on the idea that they have no doubt about the shoe.

  • Does kaka not just grt the tounge of the adiPURE 1 on the adiPURE 2 so people can see his personilsation?
    I dont think there are any stripes on the instep of kakas boots so they must be adiPURE 2s.

  • Let me start with apologies… didnt read every single comment but wanted to weigh in…

    3 points to make…
    1) Players probably have no actual difference between the best and most comfortable boot each brand has to offer… so the difference is the contract. I’d wear a Predator, Pure, Copa Mundial, Puma King, v108, Tiempo, T90… just which one gets me more money is a really key question.

    2) Most players would prefer lighter boots, ignoring safety… again, that means Vapor would be the only shoe worn but Nike would probably not be able to pay everyone… and they want some to wear T90 and Tiempo too… so they have to “force” players into different silos as well.

    3) Its is unlikely a “per season” contract would work in an ideal world… superstars would have to be locked to 1 brand, otherwise we may see adidas outbid Nike in 2010/2011 for C.Ro, and then Nike outbids adidas in 2011/2012, and the following season Puma comes in with the biggest bid… you get the idea. Also the lesser known players (eg. playing in League One and below) may keep getting “dropped” from contracts. I think both brands and players would generally not want a “per season” contract due to the nature of how things change in football.

    Well, that’s my 3 cents…

  • Sorry again… wanted to add… NICE STORY! LOVED IT… (not in the Keegan way…)… Bring more stories like these, its a key differentiator vs other sites, and something that adds insights and perspectives that we never usually see.

    THANKS TO ALL FOOTY-BOOTS WRITERS!

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