Football kits. Or shirts to be exact.
I’m laying my Canary soul bare here when I declare that this one is, and remains, my all-time favourite Norwich City shirt. But only just.
That green away number which was sponsored by Lotus runs it mighty close. And how good was it, at that stage, to have a vaguely cool sponsor’s logo on the front of our shirts?
Not that it has much competition. Poll & Withey, Fosters Lager, Asics Sports Shoes, Norwich & Peterborough Building Society, Colemans, Digital Phone Company, Proton Cars, Flybe and, since 2008, Aviva.
Once known, of course, as the Norwich Union, a long and proud name and part of the City’s identity that was swept under the corporate carpet in 2009 when our City’s name and identity with one of the foremost businesses in its field was euthanised in order for it to become a “global company”.
Despite the fact it already was.
But one set of suits told another set of suits that Norwich, as a corporate entity and identity just didn’t cut it in, for example, Australia. If Mr and Mrs Bruce out in Jacobs Creek wanted to release some equity on their small cattle station then they’d probably turn down the chance to do so with some poxy little company called Norwich Union (“we’ve never heard of the bloody place mate, is it down by Murrumburrah?”) but “…one called Aviva, hey, NOW you’re talking, Aviva eh, Av-viVA, yep, sort of sounds like a place that might be in Star Wars or something, all big and all consuming, a sort of Death Star thing…..”
“Where do we sign?”
It’s the same sort of mentality that has led to the owner of Hull City to want to change the name of his club to Hull Tigers or why Vincent Tan was convinced that if Cardiff City conjured up ideas of fire breathing red dragons in potential investors minds, they’d all fall over themselves to invest billions of dollars in his club with the world’s leading players not far behind.
“So Zlatan Ibrahimoivic, why have you left Paris St Germain for Cardiff City?”
“Well, PSG had a stupid monument on their badge. But Cardiff have a fire breathing red dragon man, awesome.”
Now I’ll admit, I have had very little to do with any of the businesses that have so far paid for the privilege of putting their logo on the front of the hallowed yellow and green shirt. In fact, it’s just been the once.
When it was sponsored by Asics, I did indeed fall prey to the lure of their sports shoes and spent a small fortune on a pair, convinced that they would not only help me play football better than ever before but that their very presence on my feet would make me not only irresistible to women but the sort of bloke everyone wanted as their best mate.
But the computer said no.
In truth, they were horrendous? Big? Roomy? I should say so. Had the old woman who had so many children she didn’t know what to do had seen one of them, she’d have known exactly what to do and leapt at the chance of an upgrade.
They would have suited her perfectly.
It wasn’t as if my friends at the time laughed at them or pointed out just how hideous they were. No, it was all quiet asides and barely disguised smirks that I caught of the corner of my eye. Yes, they looked so bad, they were too embarrassed to tell me, or, quite probably, even be seen with me and my twin platform supply vessels.
After I had only worn them for a few times, I consigned them to a dark corner of the house I was renting in south London at the time, never too see them again. They may even be there still, pristine, unloved, and so thoroughly retro, they are now probably priceless.
So look, if you live, or know someone in the SM4 postcode area, tell them to have a good poke around in their attic just in case.
And that was the beginning and end of my flirtation with Canary shirt sponsors.
I went elsewhere for windows, I prefer proper ale to lager, I still have the same bankers I had when I was a student, I partake of HP Sauce on everything rather than mustard, I have stuck with the same mobile phone company for longer than I care to remember and I drive a French car.
Plus I’ve never needed to fly to Dusseldorf from Norwich or to Verona from Southampton.
Norwich’s latest kits, the latest to be sponsored by Aviva (fast cars, sexy women, loud explosions and hot nights spent in Monte Carlo) rather than the Norwich Union (Grannies knitting in rocking chairs, Werthers Originals, neat flower borders full of alyssum plants and vicars on bicycles) have drawn a lot of criticism because of the dominance of their logo on each of the three designs.
And it’s fair to say that the Aviva logo is very dominant. Overwhelmingly so infact. They’ve paid their reported £1million per season to wallpaper it across the front of the shirt and they’re going to make sure that their prominence and visibility isn’t going to be spoilt by something as inconsequential or secondary as tradition.
Perish the thought in fact.
Yet, big, bold and brash as it is, I wonder what Aviva’s motives are for insisting (you would think) that their placement is so dominant on the shirt that it actually destroys what might, certainly for the main and second version of the shirt, be a rather classy and well put together design for both?
They’re certainly eye catching. But only in the sense that you see the sponsor’s logo before you actually see the shirt itself. It’s like driving at night when you see and are dazzled by the headlights of oncoming vehicles long before you see what type or make of car it might be.
Will the shirt achieve its aims?
That’s if the aim is for people to go out and buy Aviva products having seen their logo on the front of the Norwich shirt?
But come on, do you seriously think that anyone is going to watch us play next season else stay up until just after midnight to see us appear on Match Of The Day and declare, after, say, a nice close up of Bradley Johnson snarling at someone, “…oh, that reminds me, must renew the insurance. Hey, Norwich have got Aviva on the front of their shirts. I’ll go with them. In fact I’ll give them a call first thing in the morning. Oh thank you, thank you Aviva for saving the day. If it hadn’t been for you tastefully placed on the front of that shirt, I don’t know what I would have done”.
Has, in fact, anyone, in the history of time, ever bought a product because they saw it on the front of a football shirt and decided, there and then, to go out and buy some of whatever it was?
(Apart from me and those bloody ridiculous trainers that is).
Now, marketing bods will shake their heads sagely at my ignorance and say that is not the point or even the objective.
Because it’s all about “brand awareness”.
Something the company behind those f*****g meerkat adverts claimed when it emerged, hardly surprisingly, that their ads had become one of the most disliked and complained about in commercial television history. The gist of their rebuttal was that, even if people were complaining about the adverts or hated the characters, that didn’t matter because it meant that people knew who they were and what they did as a business.
Well, maybe I’m being naive here but what is the point of ‘brand awareness’ if it doesn’t lead to people moving on from being simply ‘aware’ and putting their money where their awareness is?
Everyone, but everyone, knew about the Woolworth brand for example. And Land Of Leather. Comet anyone? You know where to come.
Except no-one did.
So if placing your gigantic logo on a football shirt so prominently and with little to no regard for neither the aesthetics or the tradition of that shirt ends up annoying 99 per cent of that clubs’ support is that still good “brand awareness” regardless?
I guess as far as Aviva are concerned it must be. That just doesn’t make an awful lot of sense to me.
But hey, I’m just the consumer expected to pay £50 (it would cost me more to put my surname on the back than the shirt itself) to act as a walking advertising hoarding for Aviva.
Me and several thousand others. All doing their “brand awareness” for them. In the street, in shops, at home and, crucially, on television.
And we willingly pay so that their product can be seen by millions more people!
The penny has dropped.
You’ve got to hand it to Aviva. It’s an act of marketing genius.