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How to sell anything using the Nigerian football jersey model

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A man selling Nigerian World Cup jerseys is seen in Balogun Market in Lagos on June 14, 2018.The Nigeria Super Eagles jersey for the 2018 World Cup in Russia has been hugely popular, both domestically and internationally, with fans scrambling to get their hands on the white and lime green coloured jersey. In Nigeria, where poverty is widespread, many can’t afford the official kit, so they buy fakes imported from Asia. / AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS


“Guy, it’s all about the jersey.” That was the response I got from my usually dramatic, football-loving British friend when we had a discussion about the Nigerian team at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

A few weeks before the tournament kicked off, global sportswear company Nike officially released to the public, the new Nigerian team kit which it had been commissioned to create. The kit turned out to be a surprise major hit. To cap the magic of a well-put together kit, the home jersey sold out online three minutes after it was opened to the public. At Nike Town in London where the jerseys were sold in store, there was a long, round-the-block queue of Nigerians and fans of Nigerian football waiting to get theirs.

Not mentioning that over 3 million people pre-ordered the jerseys before its release.Granted that Nike has a stellar global marketing team and distribution network that is arguably unrivalled, it is a pleasant surprise to see how the new kit deign has captured the imagination of football fans across the world. Let’s take some time to examine the factors surrounding the massive success the kit has recorded and its effect on the country’s compromised image abroad.

Taking calculated risks: It’s understandable that most brand managers choose to remain cautious in conceptualizing and deploying their brand campaigns. It’s not unusual however for PR agencies to come up with innovative ideas for client campaigns only to get feedback suggesting the plan may be over-ambitious. And no, this is not necessarily an issue of funds, often it’s just a function of wanting to remain in their comfort zone – unwilling to rock the boat. For great campaigns to come out of this part of the world, our brand managers must be willing to take calculated risks to enjoy the benefits from such a venture.

When asked why the Nigerian jersey is different in style and aesthetics from other teams like Brazil, England, France, and Germany, the creative geniuses at Nike led by Pete Hoppins said these countries are traditional in nature giving little or no chances for creativity and broadening of ideas.

“We had this super energetic kit on a team where we think we can get it through the board. Ultimately, our client is the board, the president of Nigerian soccer has to sign off on this. We had more traditional backup options, in case they didn’t go for it. Some wouldn’t; we’d never push this on England. But we wanted this, so we went above and beyond to present it,” Hoppins, Nike FC’s Design Director told pop-culture magazine, Fader.

Stirring up old emotions: A deeper look at the Nigerian jersey at the Russia ‘18 World Cup will reveal that it builds thematically on the USA ’94 jersey. Instead of introducing a design that is completely alien to the Nigerian psyche, the team at Nike struck a chord with football lovers by taking a cue from Nigeria’s first showing at the World Cup.

“Some countries will have very specific briefs of what they want, others won’t. We’ll always do our own research ourselves, within those countries, to capture the mood and feeling of that country and what they want to stand up for,” Hoppins explains. A guy here named Matt Wolff, he designed this home kit. He was inspired by the classic 1994 kit with the eagle wings. We kept pushing the design and pushing it and pushing it to see how far we could go until we were like… that just looks fire.”

This is super instructive, brands must take time to design products that fit into the cultural context of their target audience. To achieve this, they must connect deeply with key emotions that represent the people’s aspirations while also driving excitement and passion to engage.

Pop culture still wins: What better way to launch the new kit design than through Nigeria’s pre-eminent pop-culture influencers – superstar artiste, Wizkid and British-born Nigerian midfielder, Alex Iwobi?

This points to only one thing – granted that your products and services are top quality, the strategy adopted to introduce it to the target audience is almost as important as the product itself.Social media images of Wizkid, Iwobi, and other international superstars like Diddy and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang immediately got millennials – who constitute a large percentage of the target audience – buzzing about the jersey and Nigeria’s chances at the tournament.

The kit release is a lesson in how to attract the attention of the target market while recording sales and achieving massive return on investment. With Nigerian getting all the positive PR as a result of its pop-culture compliant footballing jersey, the official handlers of brand Nigeria – the Nigerian government – must double-down on the rhetoric that the country is open for business. We need to take advantage of our day in the sun to tell positive stories about Nigeria and the exploits of its young people in sports, technology, arts, business, and entertainment while doing the best we can to support these talents.

Author: Adebola Williams
Category: Branding & Communications
Twitter handle: @debolagos


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