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Juventus, adidas and Palace Skateboards combine for ‘4th shirt’ gambit

(Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

Italian Serie A club Juventus wore warm-up gear and a special-edition home shirt co-branded by adidas and the Palace Skateboards brand for Wednesday’s match against Genoa.

The move was not formally announced by any of the stakeholders in advance of the match, but was highlighted on the night via the Juventus website and by a posting on the Juventus Instagram account, which was then distributed over social media.

Palace Skateboards itself put up an Instagram post that achieved more than 127,000 likes. The skateboard brand followed up with a video of Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo celebrating his winning gaol, which achieved over 500,000 views.

Experts believe that the move was instigated by both the club and kit supplier to attract new, younger fans and consumers and was inspired by Nike’s collaboration with Paris St Germain via the Air Jordan brand.

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According to sponsorship consultant Tim Crow, former chief executive at the Synergy agency, the PSG/Jordan collaboration has “upped the ante in the style wars between Nike and adidas”. Crow told SportBusiness: “They’re battling for share of culture, because they both believe that share of culture is critical to share of wallet.”

The Agnelli-family owned Juventus also has a stake in the success of the new kit, Crow said: “This is another strand in Agnelli’s strategy of rejuvenating Juve on and off the pitch. Last week at their AGM he talked again about football being too reliant on over 35s. This is that strategy on action.”

In a club statement, Giorgio Ricci, chief commercial officer at Juventus, said of the orange and dayglo green-enhanced kit: “It is great fusion between football and fashion for a further enlargement of our borders. We wanted to surprise, taking the field with a jersey that is the fruit of collaboration with an icon of the world of skateboarding. We thank our partner adidas who made this project possible.”

The ‘4th shirt’

Daniel Haddad, head of commercial strategy at the Octagon agency, believes the business rationale for such collaborations is based on growing rights fees.

He said: “It is common knowledge that the rights fees being paid by adidas and Nike for their elite club relationships have increased substantially over recent years. The result is that there is a real need to grow sales of licensed products to ensure that the relationships continue to be profitable. So while there is a clear brand benefit to these types of collaboration, the key consideration remains sales.”

Haddad argues that the key challenge facing the licensed category is that the majority of product sales for the elite clubs continue to be concentrated within Europe – and predominantly with fairly avid, rather than casual, fans.

“While there are still growth opportunities here through expansion of the product line, particularly when it comes to off-pitch wear, on the replica shirt front there are not many consumers who will buy multiple shirts in the same season,” Haddad said.

“Launching the shirt later in the season is a move to try and get avid fans to repeat buy, or create a new purchase opportunity for those who haven’t bought the home or away shirt. However the ‘4th shirt’ is more likely to be a substitute product for many avid Juventus fans, particularly within the home market.”

The ‘4th shirt’ is therefore primarily targeted at football fans with less avidity to Juventus or any specific club, but a predisposition to buy football apparel based on style and design considerations rather than as means to display club affinity.

“This type of football fan tends to be younger than the average football fan and over indexes in emerging football markets – the US, in particular, “Haddad concludes.” So this strategy is all about growing the total size of the licensed pie, creating more frequent purchase opportunities, appealing to more demographics and opening up Juventus products to less avid fans and emerging markets.”