The fast and furious world of Formula One has since long embraced the high end watch and vice versa. TAG Heuer and Longines are and were deeply involved in both timekeeping and sponsoring and have profited from the high profile sport. Almost every team has a watch sponsor on board and if not, the driver is most certainly linked to a brand. Think Richard Mille and Felipe Massa or Rubens Barrichello and Audemars Piguet. Both drivers have signature models that have become collector’s objects. Formula One drivers are larger than life heroes in the eyes of many. But what about football players? There is a lot of similarity between the top football teams worldwide and their Formula One counterparts. Big budgets rule and the top players of teams like Real Madrid, Internazionale Milano and Manchester United have star status and top salaries that underline that. But there is one main difference between the two sports.
Football has been in the hearts of people for so many decades it has become more than a few hours of entertainment.
Football has been in the hearts of people
“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that” are famous and very true words spoken by Bill Shankly, the legendary and successful Liverpool coach during the Seventies. And there lies the big difference. There might be an exception for Ferrari tifosi from Modena, but a Formula One fan can deeply love the sport and root for let’s say Williams, but you are not going to see him wandering about Silverstone looking for a fight with McLaren fans. Football has been in the hearts of people for so many decades it has become more than a few hours of entertainment. A club like Liverpool provided the only glimmer of hope and made the fans happy and proud in dark times of unemployment. And for the oppressed Catalans during the Franco era, going to Barcelona’s Nou Camp was a political statement and the only way to express themselves as Catalans. In Scotland the battle between catholic Celtic and protestant Glasgow Rangers symbolizes the troublesome history between the Scots and the English.
Football clubs are part of people’s identity; it has become part of their DNA. So wearing the colors of those and many more teams throughout the world has more meaning than meets the eye. And there you have the big difference. People who wear an Oris Williams watch because of the link with the team wouldn’t mind their best friends wearing a Seiko Jenson Button promotes. Sponsoring Formula One teams doesn’t stir up strong negative emotions. In football that’s different. It’s true that the sport has evolved over the last decade. Football has become more and more popular and accepted by the upper class. But the deeply rooted passion is still there in millions of fans. For some brands the upper class has become interesting target groups and they carefully started linking the brand to a team or teams.
What will the consequence of the alliance with a team?
JeanRichard is producing a watch for Juventus and Ebel are pioneering in producing limited editions of their new Tekton in Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Glasgow Rangers and Ajax Amsterdam livery. If they sell out their limited editions they will be happy, but what will or can be the consequence of the alliance with a team? What if Chelsea, Tottenham and Fulham fans see the link between their London archrivals and Ebel? Will they ever consider buying an Ebel watch? Maybe not anymore. Same with every other team Ebel picked since they naturally chose big iconic clubs for the alliance. But those names stir up the strongest emotions. Take the link with Bayern Munich. The team from Bavaria is undoubtedly the number one Mannschaft in Germany with a record number of 21national titles. That makes them very popular with the fans of course but also not so popular in the rest of Germany to put it mildly. Ebel has always been and still is a strong brand in Germany and they probably didn’t ship Bayern watches to Hamburg, Bremen or Dortmund but only the future will tell of the link with FC Hollywood (an ironic nickname for FC Bayern München) has a negative effect on their total sales outside of Munich.
Football players and watches are a different story. They just love their watches. Gold Rolexes in the past but recently also the more technical watches are increasingly popular with the football millionaires. German star Michael Ballack loves his HD3 and Urwerk watches, Patrick Viera is both the French captain and the proud owner of a Hublot tourbillion and extravagant and self proclaimed super coach José Mourinho couldn’t resist the superior technology in a Richard Mille. Dutch coach Marco van Basten owns a very complicated and unique Franck Müller. Maybe he’ll wear it in the dugout during EURO 2008.