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Today, the Stylo Matchmakers football boot brand, which famously sponsored Pele, has decided to stand against the same business strategy they once invented.
Now we have a Q&A with football and brand expert Scott Michaels responsible for reviving this iconic football boot label.
Where did it all begin for Stylo Matchmakers?
Back in the 1960s. Stylo Matchmakers was originally born at the hands of English businessman Paul Ziff and a close advisor, US sports agent Mark McCormack.
Ziff was the Leeds-based family manufacturing sports footwear, and McCormack was the marketing strategist, also the founder of International Management Group (IMG). Today IMG is a powerful organisation with over 3000 staff serving sports figures and celebrities.
Together the pair planned to combine their strengths in manufacturing and marketing to ignite their new concept of a cool, "rock and roll" British sports shoe label, which was to be premium and professional promoted by the superstars, ahead of rival sports brands who not long after went on to copy the exact same blueprint to success.
Who did Stylo Matchmakers sponsor?
The pair knew they had to aim for the most talked-about players. With the brand launching just before the 1966 World Cup, the Brazilian international Pele was one of the first big names, and he was making his way to England for the world tournament. Ziff met up with Pele to show him their latest design, and they both agreed to the sponsorship terms. By the time the World Cup 1970 came around, rival brands offered Pele a greater incentive, but Stylo Matchmakers had already moved on; they were already in with the young Man United superstar, Northern Ireland's Belfast boy, George Best.
Like Pele, George Best showed great interest in the Stylo Matchmakers business operations and got personally involved in some of the brand's design aspects. At the time, Best impressed the world on the pitch with his skills and in fashion magazines, he was commonly referred to as the "fifth Beatle". Best was the first footballer to commercialise himself like a pop star.
Whilst success with Best was propelling the brand, the Stylo Matchmakers team shifted focus to champion teams like Liverpool FC and some of the most talked-about players. In this era, Kevin Keegan was the next big sponsored name for Liverpool, and Trevor Francis at Birmingham City was in the news for being the first player to sell for over £1 million whilst wearing Stylo Matchmakers boots. Since signing Pele, the brand had signed up England's biggest individuals and was in pole position.
Teams and Managers
Stylo then began expanding and sponsoring full squads, including Leeds United FC, Sheffield United FC, Nottingham Forest FC, Sunderland AFC, Fulham FC, Celtic FC, Liverpool FC and many more which meant some of football's most iconic managers, Don Revie, Brian Clough, Bill Shankley, Bob Paisley and Jock Stein, also sported the brand.
After the brand had taken over English football and had success with their tennis shoes, the focus switched to golf and the production of golf shoes. Champion golfing legends Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo, Billy Casper also became sponsored Stylo Matchmakers associates. Even in the sixties and seventies, it is documented that millions of pounds were spent on sponsorship deals.
Now in 2021, Stylo Matchmakers are proud to operate a non-sponsorship football boot label.
Why do Stylo Matchmakers not sponsor players anymore?
Whilst researching the football boot market, I discovered many issues big brands were creating for themselves. Their corporate values and actions actually repent and alienate many smaller markets. The big brands have been so busy spending their money on mass markets that nobody seemed to be listening to what some of the smaller groups are looking for.
Studies show the smaller markets combined represents about 5% of adult male footballers across the whole football pyramid. I was also inspired by similar success stories when looking at other challenger brands that had made a big impact on their industries, including BrewDog and Gymshark. Like Stylo Matchmakers, both of these brands exposed opportunity based on the corporate industry leaders' weaknesses.
Today's big football boot brands haven't even adapted their strategy since the '60s; they are outdated, ever since they copied the Stylo Matchmakers sponsorship model more than fifty years ago. The football boot market has changed in many ways, but the world today is a completely different place from what it was in the '60s.
Today brands continue to battle it out to bid the highest to sponsor the best players, and whilst the value of sponsorship deals is still on the increase, it's the mass-market consumer who finally pays for it. With annual boot prices increasing, big brands charge as much as £300 now for a new pair of boots.
One of the reasons for Stylo Matchmakers existence is to serve the players who would prefer to stop wasting their money on supporting any recent big brand sponsorship deals.
Do you lose brand influence if players aren't getting sponsored?
We don't want to use modern-day players to influence our sales by bribing them, and we make a point of it. Rather than focus on any influence we might lose by not sponsoring players, we actually use this to our advantage, focusing on the influence and opportunities we create as a challenger brand.
So we will continue to tell the Stylo Matchmakers story and promote legends of the past, and any of the high profile players who represent the brand out of choice today is nothing out of the ordinary. Not only do our audience find Stylo Matchmakers easier on the bank balance because of no sponsorship deals, but it's more authentic, and the brand message is more powerful this way. We are not here to sell more boots than the big brands, only to service the growing communities of players looking for alternatives and want to be different.
Even though you don't sponsor, do professionals still choose to wear Stylo Matchmakers?
We give all players, whatever the standard, the opportunity to represent the Stylo Matchmakers brand. We know our target demographic is logical men who understand the various reasons for our existence.
Every player identifies with the Stylo Matchmakers brand in different ways. On the one hand, we have the legendary players Pele and George Best who worked in our boots. Still, we have noticed Stylo Matchmakers promoted by more recent professional players, including Premier League winner Christian Fuchs of Leicester City, the Nigerian former Arsenal legend Kanu, the former Manchester United legend Jonathan Greening, Paul Gallagher of Preston North End, Northern Irish international Kyle Lafferty and QPR striker Macauley Bonne.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Loretta Osakwe Awosika