How Umbro uncovered its DNA to build for the future

Umbro’s position in the UK sports sector is unrivalled. But when Nike took over the brand in 2007 fears were voiced that Umbro’s heritage could be lost forever. However, since then, the brand has built on its history and, with the added vigour that came with Nike, it has continued to push its heady mix of football and culture. So, with the 2010 football season just kicking-off, how will Umbro approach its marketing and what long-term missions are at its heart? Umbro’s marketing director Trevor Cairns, spoke exclusively to The Drum.

Q. How has Nike’s takeover of Umbro changed the brand?When Umbro became part of the Nike Inc portfolio in 2007, it gave the brand the opportunity to reset itself. As part of this brand reset, we worked to uncover the company’s DNA, discovering three pillars that have been a consistent presence in our heritage. The first was our roots in Manchester since 1924; the second our involvement in football at all levels since the brand’s beginnings; and finally Umbro’s background in tailoring. This led to a new strong brand position as an English Football Tailoring brand and this principle influences every part of our business from product design right through to marketing.Q. Umbro is synonymous with football in the UK... Are you looking to grow Umbro’s brand abroad? And how can Nike help with this?Our growth strategy will tap into our global potential and look to broaden our offering beyond performance and into sportswear. We’re a football tailoring brand so our potential in sportswear is very exciting. Nike continues to offer support, advice and access to resources.Q. With the new Season just kicked-off, Umbro will be busy preparing, just like the teams it supports. What are your plans for the season ahead? Will you be investing heavily in marketing throughout the season, or do your investments peak at certain times of the season?We’ve produced some great new kits for this season following our football tailoring principles, including Manchester City’s new home and away kits. We have also launched the new Umbro GT boot, our lightest boot to date, designed for speed and style. But our business goes beyond the professional game. For example, in September we launch The Umbro Vs range designed for the small sided game and further down the line as I mentioned before, we will be extending into sportswear. So our investment is all year round.Q. How has Umbro’s marketing changed in recent times?The new brand positioning has given us the freedom to break the mould when it comes to marketing in this sector. Launching the England away kit on Kasabian in Paris is a prime example of this. In recent times, Umbro’s marketing has seen increased investment. The launch of our new global website was a beneficiary of this investment and our focus on social media has become more intense over the last 18 months.Q. Umbro is backing the bid to bring THE World Cu p to En gland. How important would it be for the brand and its close links to English footballing heritage for the World Cup to come to England?Our relationship with the England team goes back over fifty years. Umbro first supplied kits for the England team in 1952 and the team won the World Cup in 1966 wearing Umbro shirts so our links with English football are lengthy.We’re a committed partner of the bid campaign and between now and the decision day we’re working to garner more support from the public to show the inspectors just how passionate the English are about the game and the desire within the country to host the world’s biggest football tournament. It would be fantastic for the nation if it was to come here so anyone reading this wanting to show their support can log onto umbro.com and help England win the bid.Q. How did the huge failure of the English team at this year’s World Cup affect Umbro’s brand and its close associations with the team?As a football fan, it was a very disappointing World Cup. But we’ve supported the team through both the good and the bad times since 1952 and we continue to back the team at this crucial time as we go into the Euro Qualifiers. The England business is significant to us but it is one part of our global business across 150 countries.Q. How has the growth in online and, more recently, social networks, affected Umbro’s marketing conversations?Online growth and the boom in social media has really helped Umbro’s marketing conversations, in that it allows us to speak to people directly about the things they like and dislike about football. Everyone has an opinion on football, and channels such as Facebook, Twitter and our own blog mean that we can express our own opinion and allow people to have their say as well. That level of interaction really helps us to contact people directly, while they benefit through competitions, special offers and campaigns that are created specifically with an online, socialmedia savvy audience in mind.Q. You have remained loyal to local agencies. Why is that important to you?We have long-standing relationships with our Manchester agencies yet our roster includes agencies across the globe. As we’re a Manchester-based brand, a local agency’s insight into the culture of the city is incredibly useful as we try to keep a sense of our roots in what we do.Q. Umbro’s brand plays heavily on Football culture... Will this remain the case as the brand continues to evolve?Being a football culture brand will continue to be our brand positioning. By this we mean we will engage with consumers where football and culture collide. This has already started to evolve and will continue to do so. We have done a lot with music such as launching the England away kit on Kasabian. But we’re now starting to tap into other football culture areas – we recently commissioned a work of art using Opta statistics from each game in the World Cup; comedian, author and football fan Mark Watson wrote a regular blog for us during the tournament; and we collaborated with some of the hottest artists from across the globe to design our World Champions collection. This limited edition range featured crests designed by the likes of Andre in France, English graffiti artist Ben Eine and Chamarelli in Brazil. Football culture is a huge opportunity for Umbro to make an impact.Q. What agencies do you currently work with? Creative/Online/Media/oversees....The lines of responsibility are fluid amongst our roster of agencies which includes Anomaly, Exposure, Love and Mindshare.

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