Not that any more evidence was needed, but it was while reading the Daily Telegraph internet story entitled Rise of the ridiculous: How football kit launches became overblown and obscene that once again it struck home how silly football (and society) has become under the influence of increasing commercialism.
The main reason for this post was to show you the kit launch pics (below) for the 1981 and 1987 Aston Villa kits. In the eighties, there was very little hard sell. Kits were mainly for kids. Adverts were adorned with smiles, innocence and pure football joy.
The first picture below, features my first ever Villa shirt. I swapped it with a Liverpool-supporting kid at school for a Curly Wurly and a Mars bar. I had a smile like these kids after that piece of smart business.
Ironically, Umbro’s tagline in 1981 was ‘The Choice of Champions’, it proved to be no empty advertising gesture, with Villa lifting the league title that season.
If the kit design started to get more serious (and fancy) as the eighties grew old due to companies like Danish brand Hummel, the smiles were still there.
The Age of Seriousness
Nowadays, smiling kids have long been replaced by the team’s players wearing stern and serious expressions. As the Telegraph article puts it:
Year Zero 1992, the Premier League happened, and nobody was allowed to smile in a football kit any more. Football was now cool, football was now sexy, but football was not allowed to be happy about it.
Take the latest kit launch picture of Ron Vlaar proves the point…cheer up buddy!
In the modern world hard-sell there are now high-concept videos and campaigns to support new kit launches in the attempt to make you part with £50-60 every season. This season Villa tapped into the current zeitgeist of superhero movies and went with an animated superhero-style campaign. It was a smart enough concept, but what is sometimes funny in this age of social media is the need for every kit to have a hashtag.
Liverpool used ‘#demand’, no idea what they were going for there. Last season, Villa’s marketing team tried to rally the fans after a poor couple of seasons with ‘#ComeTogether’, unfortunately, the club then didn’t exactly set a great example of unity to follow. Benteke handed in a transfer request, there was formation of the Bomb Squad which alienated various players, assistant managers were booted out for bullying, the chairman put the club up for sale and then the club’s CEO walked out. ‘Come together’ indeed!
Still, as the Telegraph kit article does point out, the Aston Villa kit launch has a refreshing old skool approach with its annual Father’s Day weekend kit launch festival, which with live local bands and plenty of activities for kids, has the idea of fun and community spirit very much at its heart.
Yes, clubs want to sell shirts, but as the Joker in Batman once said, ‘why so serious?’ If you can put smiles on kid’s faces in the process, then it’ll be just like football’s good old days. UTV