Today, New Balance kicked off its second go at soccer. The Massachusetts-based firm held a worldwide simulcast event anchored in London, announcing the launch of New Balance Football — its first venture into the sport since pulling out of the category in the Nineties to focus on running-geared products.
Though no individual products were unveiled, the brand says it will roll out a complete portfolio of athletically optimized apparel, footwear, gloves, balls and other assorted equipment, beginning in the second half of the year. Merchandise was developed to service both professional and recreational players, as well as fans of the sport.
Signing on for participation in the launch are English Premier League teams Liverpool F.C. and Stoke City F.C., as well as continental European clubs FC Porto and Sevilla FC. Each of the teams, as well as other international local clubs, will be outfitted in head-to-toe New Balance starting in the 2015-2016 season. National teams are also expected to be added to the brand’s roster in the coming months.
New Balance’s deal with Liverpool, a flagship club in elite English soccer, is the largest apparel sponsorship contract in the team’s 122-year history, according to Joe Preston, the brand’s global footwear and apparel executive vice president who was on-hand in New York to introduce today’s simulcast locally. As part of the deal, New Balance will be the team’s official uniform manufacturer. In addition to outfitting players, the brand will also sell Liverpool F.C. goods in its freestanding stores worldwide.
“It’s the world’s biggest sport in terms of participation as well as fans so it’s natural for us to take this leap,” Preston said of soccer. “We compete on a global basis with Nike and Adidas in many categories, but we don’t compete with them in this category,” he added. “Those two dominate the market and we feel this is an opportunity for a third brand to emerge, given our performance heritage and our global footprint.”
Preston declined to provide sales projections for the soccer initiative’s first year, but noted: “Our entry here over the next two or three years is really going to be through a specialty route, so it doesn’t really involve a lot of big box retailers.
“We tried to ground it where young players are really looking for it and also through our New Balance outlets we have literally hundreds of stores all across the globe that will also carry the product.”