Erling Haaland had several elite football clubs to choose from this summer, and he now has several sportswear brands chasing his signature.
New Manchester City striker Haaland is yet to sign a starter deal after his contract with Nike expired earlier this year and has been seen in recent weeks wearing different shoes, highlighting the fact that he is no longer tied to American society.
In the same way that the Norway international had people guessing which club he would sign for when he leaves Borussia Dortmund, be it City or Real Madrid, he now has people speculating what he will wear on his feet. in the weeks and months to come. .
At the start of the new season, Haaland took advantage of the opportunity to wear different brand shoes and was photographed in those made by Adidas, Nike and Puma.
During his City unveiling just over a month ago, he wore club-branded Puma Ultra boots. City Football Group entered into a 10-year deal with Puma in 2019 to manufacture their kits.
Then, during City’s pre-season tour of the United States, the 22-year-old played – and scored – against Bayern Munich while wearing Adidas X Speedportal boots. He wore the same in the Community Shield loss to Liverpool on July 31.
Ahead of City’s Premier League opener at West Ham United eight days later, Haaland entered the London stadium wearing Adidas trainers before donning Nike Mercurial Vapor 14 boots in the game itself. They were on their feet again in the 4-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday.
“I don’t check online (to see what people are saying) but my dad gets it with him,” Haaland told Complex when asked about wearing different brands. “Alfie (his father, a former professional footballer) follows him more than me.
“Normally it’s not allowed to wear Adidas and Nike together, so that’s kind of why I did it. I got some hateful comments about wearing Jordans and Adidas (from Nike), but it was just for fun. It was a nice hoodie and I had a few pairs of Jordans, so I paired them up.
Even though Haaland’s deal with Nike is over, it’s understood the company is determined to sign him to a new one. But it faces competition from Adidas and Puma. He had worked for the American company since he was 14 years old.
Once an athlete’s shoe contract expires, it is common for there to be a six-month corresponding rights period (although this varies from player to player and brand to brand). other).
This means that the player is only allowed to talk to the brands after the deal has ended, and if a rival brand makes a formal offer during the corresponding rights period, their previous sponsor is allowed to match it.
“As long as there is no formal offer on the table, the athlete is free to wear the shoes of their choice once the contract expires,” explains sports industry expert Michele Rinchiuso.
Sources point to a change in strategy from Nike, noting how it backed out of numerous shoe deals and opted to invest in a few players instead. It should be noted that Puma has tried to take advantage of this and is increasing its volume of athletes, while ensuring that it recruits the right players.
Notable Nike footballers include Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who has a CR7 lineup with the company similar to his long-term offshoot with basketball icon Michael Jordan, and Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe.
Other Nike athletes include Tiger Woods, LeBron James and Rafael Nadal.
Adidas can boast a roster of talent including Lionel Messi, Mohamed Salah and Paul Pogba, and also manufacture Manchester United’s kits.
Puma sponsors Brazilian forward Neymar, also from PSG, and Barcelona’s France player Antoine Griezmann (currently on loan at Atletico Madrid) and has a long-standing relationship with Usain Bolt, arguably the greatest sprinter of all. time.
Signing Neymar in 2020 ended his 15-year association with Nike – more than half of his life – and propelled Puma into a different market and helped it attract a new audience and target different consumers. .
— Neymar Jr (@neymarjr) September 12, 2020
The three brands are each trying to tell a different “story”, and it will be up to Haaland to decide where he fits in best in this regard. It’s an open secret. Nike, Adidas and Puma are all vying for one of the most promising players of his generation.
“Footballers with his abilities and reach are not often available in the market and brands will be aware of that,” a source familiar with the shoe deals said.
Adidas, it is noted, creates stories around its slogan “Impossible is nothing”, while Nike’s is “Just do it” and is often seen as an athlete’s ultimate goal. Puma is seen more as a happy brand.
“In the past, any kind of endorsement between a brand and an athlete was an association and putting a name next to a logo and a product,” says David Cockayne, founding director of the Masters of Commerce course. and sports management at the University. of Liverpool.
“Today he is much more active. We view athletes as influencers rather than endorsers and the stories they can tell and the social influence they can have.
“For someone like Haaland, who is young and early in your career, the opportunity to hire someone like him, who can relate to a younger audience, will give you that longevity and allow you to touch a wider range of people.”
“Having the best of the best is extremely important, and the cool factor for brands is very important,” he says. “If the brand doesn’t have athletes who resonate with the market and can influence a generation, then you can invest as much money as you want, but no one will buy the product.
“Everyone knows Nike have Mbappe long term and the next big thing is Haaland. If you look at him from a superstar level, the only one available in the market with the potential to be a Ronaldo or a Messi for the next 10 years is Haaland.
Due to his age and the fact that his career is still in its infancy, no one expects a bootmaker to sign Haaland on the cheap.
He was first signed by Nike as a child at Norwegian club Molde, and various numbers are being talked about in terms of the annual figure he can now command.
The financial element, however, would also depend on the length of the deal he signs. Multiple sources say Haaland would be foolish to strike a 10-year deal with just one brand, suggesting instead that he should opt for four-year cycles which could see him cut and change between companies.
There is talk that he could receive around £15m ($18m) a year to sign with a brand, although others point out that would be astronomical and point out how the sportswear giants are more savvy with their money after the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Cockayne, the intrigue surrounding Haaland and his choice of boots, noting how he’s worn the three companies’ products in recent weeks, will only work in his favor.
“Haaland and his team were very smart with that,” says Cockayne. “They’re trying different brands and I guess they’re trying to gauge what his audience is saying about the boots he’s wearing – is there a bunch of his followers screaming for him to re-sign with How do they react to him wearing Adidas boots?
Rinchiuso points to Haaland carrying different brands as an example of trying before you buy, suggesting there’s more to it – especially when it comes to a footballer – than just tugging at the company’s boots who pays you the most to do it.
“He’s been playing with Nike for years, so adjusting to another brand or shoe is not easy and takes time,” says Rinchiuso. “It’s not easy mentally either, because they might get a blister, a little cramp, say the insole is different and the padding is different. He will want to assess the quality of the product and verify them.
It’s not a relationship that would only benefit Haaland, however.
If Adidas, for example, are shelling out millions of pounds a year to sign the striker, they would expect to see a return on their investment – and that goes beyond selling a huge number of shoes to around the world because fans see him playing it on their TVs.
The number of boots they sell is actually secondary. What is more valuable to the companies vying for its signature is the data and digital impact they will be able to harness by striking a deal.
“When you have a group of talented young athletes (as customers), that legitimizes the brand and that has a ripple effect in terms of legitimizing the price points that they can put on all of their products, be it golf , fashion, football, or whatever,” Cockayne says.
“Data is incredibly valuable and it gives the brand real-time insights across a wide range of audiences. This cuts across geographic boundaries and socio-economic demographic status and gives them real-time behavioral insight into so many audiences.
“For the brand, it allows them to refine their marketing, to be much more targeted. This allows them to personalize and be much more creative in their advertising. It is a catalyst for other marketing activities.
“It’s not about selling shoes or selling football products.
“Long term it’s about legitimizing the brand and short term it’s about building a data document that allows their other marketing to be much more targeted and effective.”
Cockayne rejects the idea that Haaland’s Norwegian side will not qualify for the World Cup later this year, which would impact the finances of any deal, saying this attitude was more familiar in the 1980s and 1990, when the Premier League and the various other domestic competitions didn’t have the global following that they do now.
He notes, however, that brands will be reluctant to overspend due to the uncertainty surrounding consumer spending. The cost of living is rising, people are still recovering from the post-COVID financial impact, and a war is unfolding in Ukraine after the Russian invasion in February.
For Haaland, however, he has the world at his feet – no pun intended – and is in a dominant position to extract exactly what he wants from his next starter contract.
It remains to be seen who the 22-year-old signs for, but there is no shortage of suitors and that will only enhance his status as one of football’s most exciting talents.
(Top photos: Getty Images)