New Balance is ready to jump into the world’s most popular sport: soccer (or as it’s known everywhere other than the U.S. — football).
The Boston-based athletic brand announced on Wednesday it will outfit several top club teams for the 2015/16 season, including Liverpool FC, Sevilla FC and Stock City. Those teams previously partnered with New Balance’s sister brand Warrior.
Joe Preston, EVP of global footwear and apparel for New Balance, noted that the strong growth around Warrior prompted the company to reconnect New Balance with soccer. The brand once had a presence in the category in the early 1980s, when it sponsored Bryan Robson, the captain of the U.K. national team.
Now, it will be working with athletes from across the globe, including Australia’s Tim Cahill, Costa Rica’s Kendall Waston, Brazil’s Fernando Reges and Belgium’s Marouane Fellaini. At the press event, simulcast in London and New York, the footballers pointed out they have been wear-testing the new boots for a few months, and some have scored some of the best goals of their lives.
“Our approach is, we want to be known as the player’s brand,” said Preston. “The insights that we gain from these players at the highest levels [is crucial]. Every one of them has been intimately involved in the design and development of the product. Capturing all of that data and incorporating that into the design of the outsole and the upper and the materials has been a critical part of the development.”
New Balance, which achieved $3.3 billion in revenue in 2014, previously has been strongest in the running and lifestyle categories, although it also has been active in baseball for the last several years. Preston noted the move into football will be essential for ensuring the brand’s continued growth. “We already have this global footprint,” he said. “Now, this is a performance sport that allows us to get after a younger, competitive athlete, which is critical to continue to build our business.”
The brand will face heavy competition. Nike and Adidas are the two most dominant names in the football world, and Preston acknowledged New Balance is unlikely to topple them. “We think there’s an opportunity for someone to establish themselves as a strong No. 3,” he said. “Given our global footprint and performance credibility, and our relentless approach to product, we think we have a shot at doing it.”
The New Balance Football kits are expected to be available at retail in May, and the footwear about a month later. Distribution for the line will be targeted to specialty retailers.