This past Christmas morning, there was some wailing and gnashing of teeth around the tree.
It was Reebok’s fault.
Reebok had the license to produce NFL jerseys and various other licensed product, but they lost the contract to Nike. The obvious answer for Reebok was to scale back its production of jerseys.
That’s great business sense, but it plays hell on parents. This parent has a 7-year-old son who is a football maniac. Not to be too braggadocios, but my son enjoys every part of the game. He loves the action, the tackling, the athletic displays you see every Sunday. And his love for the sport isn’t limited to his hometown Ravens. No sir.
Marshawn Lynch, that Skittles gobbling tank of a running back is one of my son’s favorites. When Lynch enters “Beast Mode” he is no longer human, he’s a wrecking machine. A force of nature. He’s Godzilla without his morning coffee. He made Ray Lewis look like a chump when they played the Ravens this year.
My son wanted a lime green Marshawn Lynch jersey. And possibly 10 other different jerseys, Ravens, Texans, the mix was admirable. Santa had a hell of a hard time finding those jerseys at national sporting goods stores, on the internet, and at the North Pole. Reebok was scaling back on its production and there were no jerseys available.
The tears eventually dried, and Christmas proceeded with the usual over indulgence of toys, video games, sugar, chocolate, more sugar, and a metric ton of pasta for Christmas dinner.
This April, Nike will unveil its line of NFL jerseys, and as an experienced marketer who has had to deal with time honored brands, logos and tradition, the job makes me shiver in my authentic Johnny Unitas cleats. (I wear them around the office during brainstorming sessions. They tear the carpet to shreds, but who cares?)
Imagine sitting down with the owners of legendary teams like the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers and saying, “Okay, here’s you new look? Like it?” Facing a firing squad would be more fun. Remember, those logos aren’t merely corporate symbols – they represent history, tradition, highs, lows and in-betweens.
Those logos are the touchstone for generations of people, and in many cases, they represent their city. (That Pittsburgh tri-colored logo was appropriated from the Steelmark logo. So in this case, it was a corporate logo. I stand corrected, but you get my point.)
There have been plenty of links posted on the Internet that claim to be the new uniforms Nike is proposing, and there are some that are incredible (Bengals) and some that are godawful (Steelers). Nike has straight out said these aren’t the final uniforms, but you can bet there will be similarities.
Whatever the final look is, those new jerseys are going to disappear faster than an ice cream sundae bar at a Rosie O’Donnell Fan Convention. That is to say, instantaneously. Diehard fans will shun whatever Nike produces, claiming they missed “what the team is all about” and “haven’t stayed true to the tradition.” Fans are never happy, but there’s going to be truth to those statements.
No matter what Nike proposes, the owners will decide the final look. They’ll have to balance tradition with a new look that will appeal to the latest generation of football fans. I don’t envy them one bit.
I only ask one favor, and that’s to the Seattle Seahawks: make up your mind in a hurry, and place a bigger order for green Marshawn Lynch jerseys. My son’s birthday is in May, and I don’t want to be cutting it close again.