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Do you remember Umbro? Umbro was a very popular brand on soccer fields in the twentieth century, but it seems to have disappeared from the pitch. Appearances can be deceiving though; Umbro is still the official sponsor of the English soccer team, outfitting them for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Nike bought Umbro two years ago and hopes to revive the brand, just as it has for Converse, which it purchased in 2003 for $305 million. Its annual revenue is now $1 billion, largely because Nike turned Converse into fashion brand with a sports heritage. In purchasing Umbro, Nike also hopes to compete better with Adidas, which has 35 percent global market share and is outfitting 12 of the national World Cup teams.

Nike is already the official sponsor of the U.S. soccer team, even as Umbro outfits the English team. (It must have been thrilled with the opening round tie between the teams!) To revive the Umbro brand, Nike is focusing on its roots—with some updating. For example, a racy marketing photo featured seven “WAGs” (wives and girlfriends of players), wearing only Umbro jerseys and knee socks. A recently designed shirt featured the colors of the Italian and Argentinean teams but added national graffiti and logos by tattoo artists.

The success of the Umbro brand depends heavily on the success of the English soccer team, though Nike hopes that someday the brand can stand on its own. During the World Cup, it aims to sell as many jerseys as possible; Asda already bought 50,000 shirts for its stores and sold out in 10 days at a price point of $72.

Discussion Questions

  1. Can the Umbro brand be revived like Converse?
    Miguel Bustillo and Paul Sonne, “Nike Plays on Umbro’s Revival,” The Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2010.