Action Replay – Kitted Out

Who will today’s game be between? Nike vs Adidas? Puma vs Umbro? Or maybe Castore will be potential giantkillers? All professional football teams have shirts and so on belonging to a particular brand, with the logo (the Nike swoosh, the three Adidas stripes, whatever) prominently displayed. Even official referees’ outfits in England are from Nike (, but in Scotland they’re from Adidas.

And it’s all big business. Nike is the biggest sports company, with revenue of over $50m last year and over eighty thousand employees. It has been criticised for using sweatshops and child labour to make its products, and similar complaints have been made about Adidas, which has a minority share in Bayern Munich football club, and has revenue less than half that of Nike. Nike can count more Premier League teams as wearing their gear than Adidas, but in fact they have the same number as Umbro.

Both Nike and Adidas are long-established, but Castore, a British company, was only founded in 2015, and has just 500 workers. Yet it has been making progress, with three Premier League teams wearing its kit, together with Rangers in Glasgow, the England cricket team and the US national rugby team. They were involved in controversy towards the end of last year, with some of their shirts clinging to the wearers’ bodies when they became sweaty, which was particularly embarrassing for women players.

The kit manufacturers have contracts with the teams so as to ensure sales to supporters. Puma supply just one club, but that’s the champions, Manchester City, so their sales are pretty high. And, of course, it costs more to have a shirt with a particular player’s name and number on the back. Clubs also have at least one alternative kit in case of clashes, and change the details of their shirts every two or three years.

Nike and so on don’t just make sports gear, but also trainers, jackets, backpacks, etc. More specialist equipment, such as tennis and badminton rackets, is made by companies like Yonex, rather than Adidas et al: maybe there’s not enough profit in them, or perhaps it’s just that there’s free publicity for the company if you appear in public wearing and so advertising a flashy pair of trainers or a football shirt, but you won’t usually be carrying a badminton racket around with you.


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