For the past 10 weeks or so I have been working with Umbro International. You remember the huge soccer brand from the seventies and eighties? When we all started playing youth soccer, Umbro was THE BRAND of football. The checkerboard shorts and the iconic diamond logo stood for “real football”. Total authenticity. It was the code to which at least US kids repped the sport.
Founded and born in Manchester England, the mythic and epically gray home to the haunting ballads of Joy Division, Factory records, the birth of Northern Soul as well as the Rave benders of the soulful side of the eighties, Umbro was founded as a tailored sportswear company, whose owner, Harold Humphreys pushed into sport, specifically football. At one point during the late sixties, Umbro clothed every major football brand on the planet, outfitting 25 out of 26 World Cup teams in 1966. It was the only football clothing brand. Adidas was on the pitch as well but only on feet, not on the chest. But somewhere during the late eighties and nineties a lot happened and Umbro suffered. Competitive inroads by the likes of giant, mega million dollar brands like Adidas and Puma and then Nike and many others made it hard for local Umbro to get the players needed to compete and then even to stay on the pitch as a uniformer. As English football exploded and Beckham and Ronaldo and money bags bloated the business, Umbro got pushed aside. It also took on unfair associations with the rise of violent hooliganism throughout the UK. Personally I still remember as late as 1990 trying to hunt down the Umbro jacket I saw Tricky wearing on stage. So dope.
Needless to say, Umbro is back. Nine months ago,Umbro was sold to Nike. Yeah Nike. And the good thing is that Nike fully respects what they bought. Letting Umbro be Umbro. And they have set a course to right the brand and fast. Turn the ship around. The first opportunity came quickly. In March Umbro will release the much anticipated, English national team Kit. You know the one Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Theo Walcott, John Terry, Steven Gerrard, and of course with a little luck and consistent play, Becks himself will wear into the 2010 World cup in South Africa. And Nike did not skimp. Designed primarily by the young modern sportswear juggernaut designer, Aitor Throup (of Stone Island and CP Company fame) along with Umbro’s seasoned design team and tailored and finessed by English tailor, Charlie Allen. The new kit is a perfect combination of sports fabric technology, anatomic construction, and modern tailoring. The look is sleek and uncluttered. A throwback that looks forward but which remains super top secret until March 28th.
So the company I am a Managing Partner in: the ad agency-turned brand builder, Anomaly in New York City was hired to launch the kit and do all the advertising. We are also doing all the retail roll-outs. With a bunch of us ex-Nike guys, a few Wieden & Kennedy muckity mucks, and a full roster of Brits, we have worked closely with Umbro and the kits designers to make this one of the most dynamic launches in football history if I may be so bold.
I have had the privelage of going back and forth between New York and Manchester and London. Working inside and around the brand with terrific set of global partners. The following is a series of photos from my travels. I will continue to report on the launch and this brand as we enter the last week of March when the kit is unveiled. Mark my words, Umbro will be a brand to reckon with going forward. The English Kit and the pieces surrounding it are more than football replicas, they are cultural pieces that can easily be worn around town and chillin’ with your friends. Umbro is back and you won’t be disappointed.
For more info and to see some of the first pictures keep checking back in here and/or go to umbro.com/england.