Nike’s Assimilation of Chelsea FC is complete

Want to buy some Spurs merchandise? Just head over to No seriously.

[Ed. Note: Not everyone cares about brand and design issues the way I do, and some people really like Nike stuff. But keep reading, because it gets worse toward the end.]

A few days ago I posted some thoughts on what to expect from Chelsea FC’s new kits from Nike. Those unis dropped this morning (two of the three, anyway), so let’s have a look.

Relatively inoffensive at first glance. Very minimalist (which with Nike is a nice way of saying they have no ideas.) And as always, they’re Nike first and the club second. Stay tuned – more on this in a minute.

Here are closer looks.

Chelsea 2016-17 Home Kit
Chelsea 2016-17 Home Kit
Chelsea 2016-17 Second Kit
Chelsea 2016-17 Second Kit

How do they stack up against the five things I noted in the previous article? Well, since we’re missing the third kits so far we can’t be comprehensive, but:

1: I predicted baseball sleeves. I can’t honestly tell if the second strip is all platinum (yes, it’s “Pure Platinum,” not white, although I believe the women’s strip is white) or if that sleeve is slightly darker. It’s a mesh raglan, I believe, so I see a variation from the body in the close-up, but it may just be the visual effect of different fabric. In any case, I expected a couple, or maybe all three, to have baseball sleeves and that isn’t happening. We’ll see on the third kit when it’s introduced. (Does this all mean we might expect the third kit to be white? Maybe with baseball sleeves?)

2: I predicted desaturated and off-brand colors. Let’s come back to this in a moment.

3: I predicted that pedestrian single wide stripe of theirs. It’s on the second kit but not the blue. Instead of running the full length of the strip, as you can see, it’s docked about halfway down from the armpit to the bottom (the short reverses the effect, being docked halfway up from the bottom). I won’t lie – I do think this is a nice touch.

4: I mentioned the possibility of colors you can see from space. Not yet. The third kits may wind up being some variation of neon blurple, although part of me thinks that’s going to come later on. This year they may decide to take a more conservative approach and save the flash for when it starts to get dull even to people who like Nike. So, year two, maybe three.

5: No Russian hockey sweaters yet.

Now, back to the off-brand colors question. Nailed this one in spades. Most organizations of any size have an army of brand nazis charged with stomping the balls off anybody who takes so much as a pixel’s worth of liberty with it (and in a couple places I have either been the brand nazi or have served as one of his/her chief minions). Official orgs of all sorts – corporations, sports teams, universities, you name it – take that corporate identity style manual as serious as a heart attack. (When I was at the University of Colorado the brand group threatened me for using the athletic department logo – the interlocking CU design you’re used to seeing – for a Journalism school Web site. I didn’t know that was a sports-only logo – I thought it was the university logo. And yeah, they were damned near militant about my need to cease and desist.)

But Nike gives not a fuck about your brand. They don’t work for you. When you sign on, they decide what your brand is. Think about the University of Oregon football. The school’s official colors are that nice kelly green. Now, you see that sometimes. You see a darker version of it. You see the bright shade they call “apple green” (which, again, I really like). You see that godawful dark olive drab color. And black, and various grays, and on and on. Because they decide what your colors are.

And on day one, as anticipated, the first thing they have done is set fire to the Chelsea style manual.

Here’s last year’s home strip side by side with the new Nike strip. What’s the first thing you notice?

Chelsea kits: 2016-17 Adidas vs 2017-18 Nike Home, side by side
Chelsea kits: 2016-17 Adidas vs 2017-18 Nike Home, side by side

The Adidas kit is on-brand, employing that glorious Chelsea Blue – RGB 14/30/125. The new unis, though, are darker. Nike is calling it “Rush Blue” and it’s somewhere in the range of 37/71/149 (sampling off Web photos can be an imprecise science, but this is close). Here they are side by side.

In corporate identity terms, Chelsea Blue and Rush Blue are about as close as Stamford Bridge is to Pandora. In every company I have worked for I would have been roundly thumped had I gone off-brand like this. In the places where I was the nazi, thumping brand libertines would have been my job.

I don’t blame Nike for this. I mean, they are what they are. Fucking with your brand – borging your brand – it’s who they are. It’s what they do.

Nikes gonna Nike.

But I do blame CFC leadership. They really ought to have taken a stand for the club’s identity and tradition.

Think I’m being ridiculous? Remember that in a couple years when there’s all kinds of red in the strip.

Now we arrive at the gravest sin of all. I nearly fainted when this happened.

So I hit the Web and point my browser toward this morning to see how bad the damage is. Not surprisingly I see this:

Hey – is that 2D representing?

So I click into the Jerseys link (not “kits,” “jerseys”). And I see this:

Pardonnez le Francais, but what the fucking fuckety fuck? SPURS strips on our site?!

I collected myself, realized I must have hit the wrong link or something, tried it again, and nope. You go to the Megastore and you’re redirected to

Let’s summarize. Navigate to and you’re one click away from shopping for Tottenham merch.

If you’re not a football follower (or soccer, if you prefer), this may seem like much ado about nothing. And in some respects it certainly is just that. It’s marketing and selling and retailing and it’s not a bright person who expects a lot of moral integrity out of it.

But fan loyalties and shopper expectations matter. If a die-hard Denver Broncos fan went to the Donc Web site to buy a Von Miller jersey only to find Oakland Raider paraphernalia on the page, it would be a violation of trust. And from the perspective of a smart marketer, it’s just bad business antagonizing the loyal customer base.

But what do I know, I guess.

I expected some disappointing kit design. I expected a jillion dollars of marketing hype. I expected Nike to try a brand coup and I feared it would succeed.

But this? This is beyond the pale. As I’ve said before, I’m damned glad to have all that money Nike is paying us, and may we spend it wisely. But 15 years of this kind of bullshit is going to be hard to deal with.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to look for vintage Blues stuff on eBay.


2 thoughts on “Nike’s Assimilation of Chelsea FC is complete

  1. Pingback: One of the world’s largest football clubs has been assimilated by Nike | Progressive Culture | Scholars & Rogues

  2. Pingback: Too early to panic, but Chelsea defeat to Burnley exposes weaknesses – Rocky Mountain Blues

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