This weekend, Arsenal fans were greeted with a brand-new advert for their team’s ongoing partnership with adidas, and once again the German behemoth of kit manufacturing and the North London side have created a truly game-changing piece of marketing.
The ad, titled ‘Then and Now. Always Original.’ was promoting the latest Arsenal x adidas originals drop coming later this month, and did so via a nostalgic thrill-ride, taking viewers back to the days of the early 1990s, when adidas and Arsenal brought us a collection of shirts that are as iconic today as they were 30 years ago.
With an animated David Seaman driving down Holloway Road, two Ian Wrights, three Héctor Belleríns, and so many more making unexpected appearances, this ad deserves a proper deep-dive, so that’s what we have given it!
David Seaman & Steve Bould both celebrate their birthdays this week, which is the perfect excuse to share the two of them vibing in cartoon form for adidas' 'Then & Now' ad 😎 pic.twitter.com/xf9w9BGKE6
This is not the first slick marketing campaign video that adidas and Arsenal have released. ‘The and Now’ follows on from a September campaign launching the club’s three main shirts for the 2020/21 season, with that release equally capturing the attention thanks to Mikel Arteta’s call to arms to Arsenal fans for the season ahead. Meanwhile, last year we were given a similarly nostalgic promo video for the first Arsenal x adidas originals release since the club and brand reunited in 2019.
From this point, it is easy to make arguments about the club and adidas simply exploiting fans with a continual re-release of similar items each year. Perhaps it is simply that, but if you remove that cynical lens, you soon realise that the products they are releasing - or rather re-releasing - are all beautiful pieces of club merch.
From the bruised banana, to the old-style club crest, the designs from Arsenal and adidas’ ‘90s partnership (which you can read all about here) have endured, and so why shouldn’t both parties come together once again to benefit from these designs, while also providing fans with some in-demand attire?
On a larger scale too, this feels like a real statement by adidas. Traditionally, Nike are the kings of high-quality, high-production football adverts, usually saving their main showpiece for World Cups. However, they have produced nothing close to the quality of adidas’ two Arsenal campaigns so far this season.
A number of factors are the likely causes of this, running from players signed-up to each brand, to on-going financial difficulties caused by COVID-19. But another reason that adidas have been able to capture the imagination of so many with these recent Arsenal releases might come down to each brand’s history.
The ‘90s and why we love them
When thinking about the aforementioned Nike domination in football ads, the first era that the mind probably jumps to is the early 2000s. High-end production ads featuring the likes of OG Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Eric Cantona and more were game changers for their time, and cemented Nike’s place at the peak of football’s manufacturing pyramid.
But what the American brand doesn't have as strong a connection to the 1990s, and when watching ‘Then and Now’, adidas firmly strap you in for a three minute ride of ‘90s nostalgia. With grainy-TV filters, cheesy game shows and a synth-heavy backing track from Desire (although this song is actually from 2009, it sounds very, very ‘90s so we’ll let that one pass) the sheer aesthetics of this ad take you back 30 years before you even begin to notice the ‘90s inspired threads.
Here's a thread with all the new adidas x Humanrace shirts and their historical inspirations.
Something about this era clearly resonates with the wider-footballing world, as we have seen references to ‘90s trends and designs at an increasing rate in recent years, including notable examples this year like the infamous Humanrace jerseys. When we spoke to adidas design director, Inigo Turner, about this trend he told us that “we [adidas] definitely aim for a balance between meeting the current zeitgeist for ‘90s trends, while also striving to create the next generation of shirts”.
So what exactly is it about the ‘90s that is so special in 2020? Without conducting a large-scale social study, it could simply come down to the personal nostalgia of those within the football shirt community. This group is by and large made up of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, who spent at least some period of their childhood and adolescence in the exact decade that is being milked for maximum nostalgia right now.
So adidas have obviously noticed that this era is ‘in fashion’ at the moment, and are looking to tap into it as much as possible. But of course, nostalgia doesn’t sell the merch on its own, so the final step for the German manufacturers was to call in the Arsenal extended universe.
Across the 3 minute run-time, we see a host of Arsenal names, including a confused Steph Catley and Thomas Partey, Ainsley Maitland-Niles as a superhero, Beth Mead experiencing VR, David Luiz as a telemarketer, Vivianne Miedema echoing her compatriot Michael Van Gerwen by scoring a 180 on the dartboard, Danielle Van De Donk providing that catchy background synth, Héctor Bellerín rocking double denim with an Arsenal shirt, Steve Bould and David Seaman vibing in animation, and most surprisingly Ian Wright reunited with his 1990s self.
Our only complaint? Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang not being paired up with Alexandre Lacazette in an Ant & Dec style hosting partnership.
But all of the players really deliver in their performance, with Bellerín proving once again to be football’s most photogenic player, and Miedema projecting all the confidence necessary for someone wearing ‘The GOAT’ on the back of her shirt.
And on that note it is refreshing to see this campaign being led by a mixture of both Arsenal's Mens’ and Womens’ teams. The London club have long been ahead of the curve when it comes to the Women’s game, and featuring the likes of Catley, Mead, DVD and Miedema alongside Aubameyang, Luiz and Bellerín is hopefully another example of the club paving the way for new norms in the growth of Women’s football.
All things considered, Arsenal are not having the season that many predicted just a few months ago, and for many fans this ad campaign will not quell the disappointment they are experiencing right now.
In-fact some on twitter have even called-out Arsenal for apparently committing more to their marketing campaigns than their efforts on the pitch.
But at the end of the day, appearances in marketing campaigns, like so many other facets of modern football, are just another obligations between clubs and players nowadays. And any success from ‘Then and Now’ surely has the end-goal of further growing Arsenal and it’s players as a brand, with the hope that on-field success will follow this.
‘Then and Now’ feels like a significant game changer in the football marketing campaigns; Arsenal and adidas have taken an era filled with iconic designs, filtered as many of them into a three-minute advert as possible, and added a host of their first-team players in as the icing on the cake. More campaigns with this level of backing and commitment from both club and brand can only be good for the future of football shirts and attire in general.
Plus, if it means we get to see more of the adventures of the Two Wrightys or where exactly David Seaman and Steve Bould are driving to in that car, then we are fully on-board!
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