My email inbox blew up yesterday, a multitude of emails from concerned and inquisitive friends filling it up several times throughout the day. They all asked about the same thing: how was I handling the news? And while the news of the passing of one America’s foremost innovators was the headline story of the day, that wasn’t the story to which my friends wanted to hear my reaction.
No, they were all much more concerned with hearing my thoughts about Cesc Fàbregas’ traitorous, out-of-the-blue switch from Nike to Puma. Riveting, right?
Some in the boot-obsessed corners of the game are calling Puma’s capture of Cesc “one of the biggest brand transfers in football history”. Personally, I think that’s a bit sensationalist: Thierry Henry leaving Nike for Reebok in 2006 was a much bigger bombshell (Although ironically, Henry just signed on with Puma too.). But it’s still a massive move by a brand that’s been losing ground to industry leaders Adidas and Nike for years, as well as to upstarts UnderArmour.
So, what was my reaction to one of my favorite players leaving one of my favorite brands?
Admittedly, it was a bit hard to swallow at first. After all, my choice in boots has mirrored Cesc’s almost identically over the last few years. I’d argue that this wasn’t a conscious decision on my part, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. But from the Tiempo Legend II’s through to both models of the CTR360′s, I feel like I formed a(n obviously non-existent) bond with my idol by way of our common footwear. And now that he was leaving Nike, I foolishly felt a bit betrayed and hurt.
Though, after seeing his first promotional picture for Puma — the awkward picture from the top of the post that makes him look a bit out-of-place in their digs — I did feel a bit more vindicated in my feelings. Then I remembered that Cesc jumping off the Nike boot train doesn’t mean that I have to, too. And then I remembered that none of this is really that important.
But, it did make me wonder why a player like Fàbregas — one of the elite players on the planet — would ditch a lucrative sponsorship with a deep-pocketed, innovative, industry leader to join forces with a company that appears on the wane.
To Nike, Cesc might have been the lead athlete on their CTR360 line of boots, but there are also a small herd of other stars that rock the same boot, including teammates Andrés Iniesta and Javier Mascherano. And considering that Nike already have the entire club wrapped up in Nike apparel, it wouldn’t be crazy for the Oregonians to think that they’re already getting plenty of exposure out of the Barça camp.
To Puma, Fàbregas appears the perfect pitch man for their footballing endeavors. By all accounts, the Catalonian is a good lad that won’t cause them much worry about exposure to bad PR on his behalf. He also just happens to be a member of the most famous and idolized team on the planet at the moment, and prior to his signing, Puma didn’t have a single endorsement on a roster that’s dominated with Nike (11 of 16 regulars) and Adidas ( 4 regulars) athletes. With Barcelona sure to make deep runs in the Champions League, Club World Cup and La Liga competitions, there are few other athletes that could offer the sheer amount of global exposure that Cesc’s feet can.
The plain and simple fact seem to point towards one conclusion: Puma offered more money to Cesc than Nike thought would be worth the investment to match. And though I’d love to believe with starry eyes that he would be loyal to the brand that’s paid him for so long, Fab4 has proven recently that he’s only loyal to two things: FC Barcelona and money.
Fàbregas — along with Kun Agüero – will now undoubtedly serve as the face of the brand now that their former face, Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto’o, has moved to the wilds of Dagestan far from Western eyes and their bank accounts. And it will likely do Puma, and the player’s bank account, well.
And to all of my friends who think that I’ll now be giving up my beloved Nike boots to copycat Cesc’s latest move, you’re crazy… I won’t be doing that until Chris Rolfe loses his endorsement and/or grows bigger feet than me.