When the members of the US women’s national football team stepped off the bus in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday, ahead of their opening game of the Women’s World Cup, their eye-catching formalwear marked a departure from the usual pre-game tracksuits or training gear.
The athletes were dressed in navy-blue custom suits bearing the team crest and each player’s initials, along with sunglasses and sneakers in vibrant colourways created by London-based luxury designer Martine Rose in collaboration with sportswear giant Nike.
The partnership is the latest example of how brands are increasingly investing in marketing opportunities around women’s football as viewership and the overall popularity of the sport have spiked in recent years. While collaborations between brands and men’s football teams are well established, it is only recently that women’s football has caught the eye of the world’s biggest fashion names.
On the pitch, it wasn’t long ago that professional women’s football teams had to make do with wearing oversized hand-me-down jerseys, shorts and socks from their male counterparts. Now, major sportswear brands like Nike, Adidas and Puma are not only investing in capsule collections, campaigns and events in women’s football but also bringing indie designers into the fold to further drive hype around their involvement in the fast-growing sport.
Earlier this month, Prada announced it will dress the China women’s national team off the field during the World Cup and beyond. Adidas, meanwhile, tapped long-term collaborator Wales Bonner to design the match kits and accompanying casualwear for the Reggae Girlz, the Jamaican women’s national football team.
For brands and their designer collaborators, women’s football presents a prime opportunity to reach untapped consumers. Viewership of the sport has increased dramatically in recent years: A record 1.5 million tickets have been sold to date for the ongoing World Cup, up from one million sold for the 2019 edition, while Australia’s opening game of the tournament hosted a record-breaking crowd of 75,000 in Sydney last week.
All the while, star athletes can leverage their own audiences on social media, said Martine Rose. Star forward Alex Morgan, for example, has over 10 million followers on Instagram, while Megan Rapinoe — Martine Rose’s muse for the collection — is renowned worldwide both for her sporting achievements and social advocacy.
Rose’s collection with Nike went live Tuesday, and she said she was surprised to see that popular styles have already sold out, including the vibrant blue and purple £184 ($236) Shox Mule MR 4 sneakers, a £459 beige trench coat and a £230 dress shirt. The collaboration will also hit the shelves at luxury stores including Dover Street Market, Ssense and Browns.
“I really, really underestimated the global pull a collaboration like this can have,” she said.
For Nike, the tie-up has also allowed the traditional sportswear retailer to tap into a new, niche football-inspired aesthetic that Rose has pioneered for several years with her namesake brand’s runway shows and collections, characterised by mixing vintage jerseys with cargo pants or tailored jackets. The collaboration was also the first time Nike worked on tailoring, Rose told BoF.
On Tuesday, Nike announced another football-inspired tie-up featuring jerseys, skirts and sneakers, this time with Tokyo-based Ambush, a luxury streetwear label.
Rose said she expects women’s football and the sport’s burgeoning influence on fashion to drive sales and inspire future collaborations for years to come.
“Awareness of the sport in the creative community and wider world has really picked up over the last few years,” she said. “You are now seeing women’s football at the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist.”