Being a smaller sporting brand can be tough. The odds seemed stacked against you when comparing yourself to the Adidas’ and Nike’s of this world.
However, one up and coming European brand has proved that they can more than take on the big sporting brands and succeed through a dedication to quality and a single-minded approach to creating bespoke ranges for high profile football teams like Crystal Palace and Stoke City.
Macron (not named after the new French President, more on that in part two) is an Italian brand founded in 1971. Back then it was a distributor of American sportswear brands in Italy. By 1994, it began to expand rapidly and by 2001 had just won the sponsorship of its first professional sports team, Bologna FC, which it still sponsors now.
The numbers speak for themselves. Sales are now €75 million, compared to €11 million in 2004, which represents a 20% growth rate year on year. Meanwhile the brand sponsored 16/17 more than 50 clubs football worldwide, while this next season this number will be increased.
Recently I spoke with Roberto Casolari, Sports Marketing Director at Macron, about the brand’s spectacular rise.
When asked what does he feel the biggest differentiator is between Macron and their bigger competitors he said:
“Part of our strategy is to create bespoke clothing. Being an italian brand helps, it means we can offer something unique and stylish, because of heritage.”
“We work in partnership [with clubs]. This is where we make a big difference from Nike and Adidas.”
He detailed this approach by highlighting the example of the brand’s work with Stoke City, which it has sponsored since 2016.
“When we started with Stoke, our first proposal was a white paper. We sit with design teams, the club and we start drawing bespoke kits. That’s the way we do it. Also, that is the same way we do it with not just matchday kits but also polo shirts and the whole collection in fact.”
“This is one of the reasons [for our success], when you look at list of our clubs, most of them come from nike adidas, puma. The other brands produce standard [kits], unless you are a Manchester United or Barcelona.”
“This year we had four big agreements ending with Lazio, Bologna, Sporting Lisbon, Hajduk Split. We expanded and extended with all of them. It is not just financials, it is a matter of trust too.”
Interestingly, while sponsoring teams, for the most part, Macron doesn’t sponsor brand ambassadors.
“Brand ambassadors, they are normally linked to shoes, due to our strategy, we focus on items for team sports. By not producing football boots, this is part of our strategy.”
However, Macron does provide goalkeepers with gloves, including Crotone’s Alex Cordaz who plays in Serie A.
Given this level of growth, what does Casolari?
“There are so many different reasons, such as the way we approach market and the strategy we use to sponsor top clubs. However, from these sponsorships we get two things: awareness, and reputation,” he said.
Casolari proudly mentioned that one of the proudest achievements within its meteoric rise, was its fourth position in UEFA’s Club Licensing Benchmarking Report for 2015, which was released this year. The ranking meant it was the fourth largest provider of kits based on the number of partnerships it had across Europe. Only Nike, Adidas and Puma were ahead of the Italian brand.
Part two from this interview will be coming next week.