I Heart Armani!
When you think of sport the first images that come to mind are often athletes pushing themselves to the limit, sweat dripping from their face, bloodied, bruised and exhausted. Most athletes are so focused on their performance that they don’t take a minute to think about how they look - they could not be any further from a fashion catwalk if they tried. So with the world’s biggest sporting event kicking off tonight with the Opening Ceremony, are fans more interested in seeing the spoils of victory that their athletes are going to bring home or do they care more about the outfit that their country will wear as they walk into the stadium? Maybe there is a way that two of life’s great passions can complement each other this Olympics? I personally am always thrilled to see a bit of colour and creativity on the field and I can’t wait to see how one of my favorite international stars performs over the Olympics, Mr. Georgio Armani.
A bit about the man and the brand
If you are not already a fan, I will shed a bit of light on Armani’s achievements to date. Georgio Armani founded the international Italian fashion house Giorgio Armani in 1975, which designs, manufactures, distributes, and retails couture to ready-to-wear to home interiors. The brand markets these products under several sub-labels providing understated elegance at various price points.
Armani is a power house in fashion and all things luxury, no doubt about it. He has impeccable taste visible not only in his own appearance, the homes and yachts he acquires but the company he holds – his many muses… the most sought after models actresses and athletes. With over thirty years in the fashion game, it is impressive how he continues to find ways to stay relevant. But could he cross over and make an impact in sport?
This year he identified a perfect fit for his sportswear offshoot label, EA7 as the Official Outfitter of the Italian team for the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics. He is known to be a proud sports fan and this union may just be the perfect synergy between an iconic fashion house and its proud country of origin. The mention of Armani has fahionistas blogging the house down and the sheer exposure of the Olympics will deliver great global awareness. If we use the Beijing games viewership as a reference, the investment that will certainly broaden the brand’s reach. According to Nielsen, the Beijing Olympics had a cool 4.7 billion viewers tune in throughout the Games, between August 8 and August 24. That is saying roughly 70% of the world’s population tuned in!
Armani & Italy are not alone in entering into this this type of fashionable partnership. Great Britain & Adidas are leveraging the power of celebrity by appointing Stella McCartney to fit out the team (sadly, designs are under quite a bit of criticism for her abstract take on the union jack, making it unrecognizable). And the United States will wear uniforms designed by Ralph Lauren (who is also getting a fair bit of back lash for producing these uniforms in China, but let’s leave the off-shore production debate for another time).
A glimpse at the fashion podium -
Competing for coverage
Armani’s designs will outfit athletes in both sportswear and formal wear throughout the duration of the competition. The Athletes will enjoy the Armani luxe touch, receiving two Armani suitcases filled with a full wardrobe of 50 designer pieces in a colour palette of white and midnight blue including mix-and-match pieces, a nylon jacket, Bermuda shorts, trousers, T-shirts, athletic shoes…
However, some arm wrestling is to be expected to try gain head to toe ownership of the various individuals and teams not only whilst competing in their sport, but beyond. There are some instances where a brand/partner cannot fulfil all sporting clothing requirements for Olympic competitors. This year Prada will outfit the Italian sailing team with technical clothing and Oakley will be the official eyewear of Team USA. Individuals can also request permission to wear items produced by conflicting sponsors if they can be proved to be necessary tools of trade. Example, while the Italian track and field athletes will race in Armani uniforms they may choose not to utilise the new Armani and Reebok athletic shoe and instead race in their preferred or in most cases sponsored shoe brand.
Overall, the IOC do their very best to protect Olympic and NOC team sponsors by implementing an Olympic advertising black out period that stops non IOC and NOC partners from advertising with Olympic Athletes (this includes sponsored athletes from wearing competitor brands within the Village and Olympic venues).
Cutting through the Sponsor clutter
To live beyond the Games, Armani has created an ad campaign featuring a select group of Olympians in the EA7 label. “The Sense of Being” is a strong black and white story of athletes in action accompanied with messages of dedication to sport and performance.
To maximise its reach beyond Italy (and Armani’s partnership with the Italian team), both French and British athletes are also featured. “The Sense of Being” provides nine athletes and their sport increased profile/exposure. The range of athletes, a distance runner, BMX champ, gymnast, volleyball, fencing….. are a nice change! These nine professionals are at the top of their game, they have committed their life to performance and are deserving of such an opportunity. It is rare to see talent form these less popular sports featured in National and International campaigns and I hope we see more and more of it. UK runner Emily Pigeon (secured by Octagon UK Athlete & Personalities team) has already participated in her second Armani fashion shoot extending her relationship beyond the ‘Sense of Being Campaign’, go Emily!
The Print ads
‘Running towards your dreams makes sense’
So, whether you are a patriotic sports fan or an opinionated fashionista tuning in for the opening ceremony tonight, I hope you enjoy the fashion show! It will be an emotional couple weeks of highs and lows, however, if there is ever a dull moment remember to turn your attention to the many colours, styles and brands of lycra and don’t be surprised if Mr. Armani comes home with another gold medal from these marketing efforts!
Rene Wright is Client Services Director of Octagon’s Athletes and Personalities Team based in Sydney.
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