It might seem like a tagline perfectly placed for the current climate in the Premier League, but that’s not how we work over here at The Instep. What we’re talking about is how some of the smaller brands can find themselves in a prime position to insert themselves into the conversation about the top three brands in the soccer equipment world. The soccer equipment world has changed monumentally over the last several years, and many brands have started to make themselves known. Can any of the “other guys” get themselves in to mix at the top? Or is the peak of mountain unobtainable for anyone else? We take a look and throw out some ides that could get the other brands on track for greatness.
First off, we just wanted to mention that the top three has got to be, at this moment, Nike sitting at the top of the pile, adidas surging behind them, and Puma calmly situated in third. The brands behind the “big three,” would have to be (in no particular order) Under Armour, Concave, Mizuno, Umbro, and New Balance. We’ll look at each one and see if they have a path into the mix.
The American giant is definitely the brand that seems to have their eyes on the top more than their counterparts. With pieces of other sports markets seeing UA either breaking into the top two or upsetting the balance altogether, soccer feels like an avenue that Under Armour is continuing to place more emphasis within. The newest Clutchfit is one of the best boots in the entirety of the market and each iteration of the Spotlight (previously SpeedForm) makes serious improvements. A strong platform to try and make a move into the upper echelon.
In terms of becoming fourth place, the path isn’t too difficult for Under Armour. Their aim might be to upset the big three, but the moves they’ll need to make would be similary either way. The first step is getting more involved within the American professional soccer scene. Breaking up the adidas monopoly within the MLS would be massive, and it’s amazing that UA let the recent option to snatch up the NWSL slip through their fingers. It’s been something that Under Armour could have done for quite some time, but something that they’d certainly have the muscle to make happen nowadays. Outside of that, it’s all about player endorsements. Jermaine Jones and Memphis Depay didn’t quite pan out, but the best thing for UA to have right now is exposure within the footy world.
A brand that probably has the most outside chance to find themselves in this imaginary “fourth” place, there can be no doubt that the last few moves by the brand has put some serious wind in their sails. Making their boots function with their uniquely styled technology without the boot looking ridiculous was a massive step forward. Add in that the boots actually function as a quality boot without even mentioning the Concave element, and the future is bright.
As we said, their road is the hardest and most difficult to envision, but Concave needs to embrace their wild side to continue to climb up the ladder. As Puma has in the past, Concave needs to embrace being different. By marketing themselves as the outsider that they are, they can get people to see them as an alternative when adidas or Nike does them wrong. There are plenty of players who would be great to fit that bill…remember how well Puma and Balotelli went for a while…Concave should find their version of that connection.
The world definitely sees Mizuno as an elite brand, and the brand rarely makes a move that would have us believe that they even want to compete with the big guys at the top. If you’ve ever had the luxury of stepping into a Mizuno boot, even the boots that aren’t the MIJ editions, you fall in love with the Runbird. In America, the brand is more popular in baseball than soccer, but that’s certainly not for lack of trying.
Mizuno’s path would only involve education, but it might end up being one of the most expensive ventures. Any player that stumbles into Mizuno leaves a fan for life, so Mizuno needs to try and get themselves to be more accessible. Sadly, that’s part of the beauty of Mizuno…their mystique. If the brand started to become easily obtainable, would it remove the view of the brand as being such a pull for boot fans? No matter what happens, if Mizuno wants to get in the mix, it’s going to be a matter of letting us have access.
The Double Diamond is a brand that once lived within that top space of brands. The past decade is something that boot fans would probably enjoy in movie/TV series form. There was definitely some wandering in the wilderness for the brand over the last several years, but Umbro now sits on a strong line-up that can compete within the market. Is there a path that sees Umbro climb back up near the top?
Umbro has made some smart and great-looking choices with kits, avoided making a massive money grab with their sponsorship of Chapecoense, and we’ve enjoyed our time testing all the boots they have on the market. The step they need to take is similar to others on the list: education. The newer generations of fans don’t see Umbro as a genuine option. Nobody knows about the Accuro, the Medusae only occupied the headlines for a short while, and the Velocita 3 is intriguing…but folks can’t really form their own opinion on it. The brand does have a slight connection with Dick’s Sporting Goods, but they don’t put most of the top options in their stores (mainly online)…and we’d love to be able to walk into a store and spend some time with the boots.
The newest member to the modern game, New Balance has certainly hit the ground running. The initial NB Visaro hit all the right notes, and the second iteration of the Furon is a definite winner. A brand that has got themselves flowing around in kits and other aspects of the beautiful game, their path is the simplest of all.
Time. Maybe watch what Under Armour does and learn from what they have work/not work, but New Balance is so early into their tenure of the market that they just need to stick around, continue doing what they’re doing, and hope that success starts to roll in.
There we go! That’s our list. What are your thoughts? Is there a brand we didn’t mention that you could see creeping into the top? Is there an alternate route that you could see one of the brands we mentioned using to rise up? Let us know in the comments!