Barcelona just announced that their third kit was for sale, and more than a few people noticed that the kit looked just like Inter Milan’s, Tottenham’s, and Chelsea’s (PSG and Manchester City’s, as well). The only differences were changes in color, crests, and sponsors.
The problem with this, above all else, is that Nike isn't creating an identity for the club, they're creating an identity for their brand. pic.twitter.com/MVscaTBnct— Outside of the Boot (@OOTB_football) September 12, 2017
This is hardly the first time that Nike has done this, the copy-and-paste template ideal has been the brand’s way of doing things for a long time now. It’s not limited to the third kits either; this is a problem with every kit that they make. This issue was at its most evident and embarrassing during Euros 2016, when every team practically wore the same kits, just in different colors. Also striking was that the designs weren’t that different from the ones from the year prior. Not only was the company making every team look the same, but they weren’t even bothering to create new templates.
Nike isn’t the only company at fault, others, including Adidas, have done the same thing.
The benefits to this templating are clear: It’s easier creatively, cheaper, and the companies get to have a solid brand identity when it comes to the sport. All Nike teams look the same. All Adidas teams look the same, and so on. There are so many teams that having to create individual designs for each, home, away, and thirds — differing every year — would be an understandably draining endeavor. This is a simpler and better method when the main point, at the end of the day, is for companies like Nike to advertise themselves.
But this is just getting ridiculous. The templating is lazy to the point of being insulting. It’s choosing brand identity over the individual and unique histories of the teams. It’s forcing a conformity of supporters, turning everyone into one big homogeneous group that is united under the brand itself, rather than understanding each team and fandom and creating a unique experience for them. You’re paying an unreasonable amount to wear Nike shirts, not Barcelona’s or PSG’s or Chelsea’s.
To be clear, the teams aren’t victims in this. Nike and other brands are paying teams for the right to design and advertise on these kits. These designs only happen with their explicit permission. Thus the clubs are, in part, selling out their histories and individuality. Which, to be fair, isn’t a new concept in sport.
Worst is that these kits are marketed by both club and designer brand, by using the appeal to identity, even when the true influence behind the design is brand cohesion. Because the companies seem to understand what is at the root of fandom, even as they try and erase it. So, it’s not that Barcelona’s third kit is the same as every other Nike team, it’s that it’s “inspired by the city of Barcelona to illuminate the world,” and the shirt “includes a mosaic like detail that celebrates the work of the city’s famous architecture.”
There’s no way that these kits are inspired by the unique identities of the teams or cities. Barcelona’s architecture cannot be the same as London’s and Milan’s. The sameness is intentional and blatant. That is, unless companies like Nike are hinting at the philosophies of existential nihilism: That none of the individual experiences matter, there’s no value or meaning to anything, and we’re all the same insignificant grains of sand. Which would be a bold move and laudable move. Otherwise, it’s just looks like they don’t care too much about the history of the teams or the fans. And they have no problem showing that through their kit designs.