Mar 18, 2024

Kit or Couture?

Valentina Milne investigates how football is blurring the line between sport and fashion.

Valentina MilneSports Editor
© MaxiSports/

It all started with David Beckham. In the dawn of the noughties ‘Golden Balls’ – as he so readily became known as – was the epitome of a personal global brand. Alongside his remarkable skill and fortified legacy at Manchester United, Beckham’s good looks, affable demeanor and world famous girlfriend made him an iconic household name and perfect canvas to work the global fashion market. By 1999, Beckham was undoubtedly one of the most influential individuals in the world, both on and off the pitch. 

Fast forward to 2021 and it would be no shock to see football stars plastered on billboards sporting (forgive the pun) designer goods of the highest quality. Over the years, the likes of Ronaldinho and Bellerin have walked the runway, and with the exponentially increasing influence that footballers have on society today, top designer brands flock to these sporting stars as key emblems of their brand. Marcus Rashford, Manchester United icon and English national treasure, used his immense influence to launch a campaign fighting child food poverty with Burberry eagerly dressing him in an iconic checked cape. There is no doubt that the growing investment into sporting superstars not only benefits brands on a surface level but has innumerable knocks-on effects for both athlete and brand alike, allowing increased exposure of their values. 

And it’s not only on an individual scale. World class football clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain signed a 2 year deal with Dior, upon the arrival of Lionel Messi in 2021. It was decided that Dior would design PSG’s ‘official wardrobe’, all the way from ‘cashmere sweatshirts’ down to the inner soles of their shoes, each one embossed with the players shirt number. There was also a move to tailor each piece of clothing to align with the current street style in a ploy to appeal to the more youthful fanbase. This immense attention to detail from both football club and brand alike is key evidence as to the scale of influence that cross industry collaboration that society’s two key influential powerhouses can muster. 


Talking with the successful athlete marketing company, Sport Endorse, The University Times uncovered the key values that marketing companies look for in pairing the perfect brand with athlete to create an influential and relevant athlete image. “It’s important to tailor the message to the correct audience,” co-founder of Sport Endorse, Declan Bourke, noted. “An athlete that is passionate in a brand that aligns with their values is most likely to succeed in generating a persuasive campaign.”

As this cross-industry collaboration continues to grow, there is an additional element that cannot be overlooked. It is now important for a sports team or individual athlete to grow their appeal beyond the common fan. In recent years, the rise of social media has opened invaluable doors that enable exposure of both brand and athlete to reach beyond the typical football-follower. By tapping into this, the opportunities are endless: the influence that one singular athlete could generate knows no bounds. 

So, perhaps this generation’s footballing stars need to leave their boots on the pitch and start practicing their runway walk. A new brand of athlete is dawning, one who is not afraid to stray offside into the frills and flair of the fashion world.



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