Football-inspired lifestyle collections exist in a curious portion of the industry. At one end of the subset you might have a high-end fashion house showcasing tired "designs" which look like little more than a repurposed piece of oversized 00s sportswear with a logo slapped on top of it. Conversely there are many independent creators who skillfully combine themes and ideas with the medium of football to create genuinely interesting pieces (Killa Villa immediately spring to mind, for example).
It has often felt like the quality of lifestyle collections has broadly decreased in recent years with the growing commonality of collaborations. However, diamonds do still exist in the rough. One such diamond of a collection came to my attention this week, and it serves as a blueprint for how an established brand can interact with football in a creatively positive way.
The brand in our story today is none other than Coca-Cola. Coke are no strangers to football, though their involvement in the game has been somewhat selective over the years.
Anyone but the youngest of readers will remember the brand's sponsorship of The Football League between 2004-2010 (the "Club Colours" campaign, where the Coca-Cola logo was recoloured to match the colours of each club in the football league, was a stroke of genius). Coke was also the title sponsor for the League Cup for much of the 90s, and more recently they signed a deal with the Premier League to become the official soft drink partner of the competition.
When it comes to shirts the brand's immense size hasn't translated to a bevy of sponsor appearances in the modern game. Cult classics like the Mizuno x Tokyo Verdy shirts of the 90s or the Club America shirts of the same era represent the peak of a steeply declining market share in regards to shirt sponsorship, and now you're much more likely to see the Coke logo on a concept or "what-if" design rather than the real deal. One of the reasons we see fewer big-name sponsors compared to the 90s is that there is only so much exposure a company like Coke would need or benefit from now. If anything it could be argued that alignment with one particular team might even be a negative for a brand the size of Coke.
Fast forward to 2024 and the Coca-Cola logo has made a rare appearance on a shirt, specifically as part of a lifestyle collection (where there is no danger of negative association with specific teams). For all the aforementioned pitfalls that many big names often fall into, the upcoming drop with Korean creative studio Over The Pitch instead manages to hit all the right notes.
I could talk all day about my fondness for the red/white/black jacket, but for the sake of brevity I want to focus on the red and black football shirt pieces. There is so much to enjoy here from a design perspective, beginning with the use of the famous Coca-Cola ribbon.
The Coke ribbon or wave is one of the most iconic logo elements in the world, and its usage as the anchor of the shirt design here is pleasing. There's more to this than first meets the eye though. Back in 1997 the South Korean national team played in one of the more underrated designs from Nike at the time. Across the red body of the home shirt splashed a double stack of white and blue waves. The pattern bears resemblance to the Coca-Cola ribbon, making the 2024 Coke x Over The Pitch shirts something of a referential nod to the 90s design. Other elements such as the distinctive Nike-style collar add further depth to the connection, whilst also complementing the other retro aesthetics (how about that wonderful Coca-Cola globe logo, which looks like it's been plucked straight out of a 90s Brazilian club shirt?).
Any big brand can clumsily stumble their way onto a kit and call it a day, but Coke and Over The Pitch make for a great pairing. The involvement of Coca-Cola as a brand elevates the collection as a whole, bringing in more eyes and increasing exposure whilst also not stifling creativity. The way that the Coke brand marks are utilised strikes a good balance between fresh ideas and nostalgic nods, and there is something here whether you're a football fan or someone with absolutely no interest in sport. This is what success looks like for a major brand wanting to get involved with the beautiful game on some level.
As Head of Content, Phil is the creative playmaker of the team, covering every angle of football shirt news in our blogs and weekly Newsletter. Whether it's telling your fakes from your authentics, or deep dives into the newest football shirts designs, Phil will have all your football shirt content needs covered.