In a refreshing move that I’ve never seen, Nike launched the Women’s World Cup kits for the countries that they represent. These included the United States, Canada, France, England and Australia. This wasn’t a soft launch though! The sportswear giants gathered some of the world’s most talented players in Paris for a lavish launch event.
In the second quarter of the 2019 financial year, women’s footwear and apparel alone counted for nearly a quarter of Nike’s total revenue and it has said the women’s footwear and apparel market is now 1.5 times bigger than that for men.
Wall Street brokerage Bernstein calculates women’s sporting gear pulled in $7 billion for Nike last year. A sign of the growing financial power of women’s sport for sports goods makers like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour.
Nadine Kessler, UEFA’s head of women’s football said the partnership across competitions and campaigns sends “a powerful message that the game is now being judged and supported on its own merits, it underlines also its important milestones beyond the field of play.”
Nike’s announcement of a partnership with UEFA comes three months after Visa signed a seven-year deal with European soccer’s governing body to sponsor the women’s game at all levels.
This level of high profile investment is fantastic to see, well, fantastic is the investment is passed down the women’s footballing pyramid.
Photo from @Nike
There has also been plenty of thought that has gone into the design and fit of these shirts. Nike explained that the first step toward the 2019 fit began with the athletes. Nike’s design team met with professional footballers from a variety of countries to hear firsthand what players were looking for in a future fit.
They learned that a V-neck is preferable, provided it’s not too deep!. They heard that draw cords and side-seams on the shorts can be a distraction, that sleeves needn’t be overly short to be considered feminine, that the rise of the shorts makes all the difference and so much more.
Next, the players’ precise 4D measurements were captured in the Nike Sports Research Lab, including heat-mapping the areas of their bodies more prone to perspiration to ensure proper ventilation zones on the kits. Nike’s research team also captured the body in motion during this process to gauge the impact movement had upon the garments.
Photo from @Nike
Since 2010, all of Nike’s football kits are made from recycled water bottles. The process involves melting down recycled plastic bottles to produce a fine yarn. The bottles are cleaned, shredded into flakes and converted into pellets. From there, the pellets are melted and spun into the high-quality yarn used to create the kits, delivering peak performance with a lower impact on the environment. Nike claim to have diverted more than six billion plastic bottles from landfills using this method which is pretty awesome!
Nike also consulted with the federation kit managers; they compared the sizes players were requesting against the sizes their measurements would have dictated in the kits of that time, and they discovered a disparity. Generally speaking, the players were requesting shorts a size smaller and shirts a size larger than what their measurements would indicate.
I always think that it looks less than ideal when you see women’s teams playing in baggy shirts designed for the men’s side. The Portsmouth Women’s shorts look more like the Bermuda shorts for the beach than for playing competitive sport.
Photo from @Nike
Cassie Looker, Nike Women’s Football Apparel Lead explained “Our male footballers prefer a very fitted — almost tight — shirt; they say it makes them feel like a superhero. But that’s not how it makes our female footballers feel, and we want them to have the shirt that is right for them without having to size up to get it.”
“As for the short, the powerhouse muscle groups on the elite female footballer necessitate a fit that accounts for the quadriceps and hamstrings in a way Nike’s regular female fit would not. When the fit accounts for muscle, it negates the need to go with shorter (or smaller) shorts that lie above the thickest part of the leg.
“The legs are obviously doing a tremendous amount of work in a football match,” says Looker, “and it’s imperative they are not restricted in any way, nor should the athletes have to adjust the shorts or roll the waistband unless it is their mental preference to do so.”
The new fit of football extends beyond the kits themselves to include the training, travel, pre-match and post-match looks for Nike federations. I hope that we will see this also be available with youth kits also. My Havant & Waterlooville U13’s would love to have kits design specifically for them.
I love what they have done with these shirts and they will be available to buy from May. I hope that the Lionesses top will come in a male fit as I’d love to get one for when I venture over to Nice for the England vs Scotland game.