Goalkeepers' gear and a penalty kick

No 71: UMBRO
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The Independent Culture
IT'S tough in the sports-kit arena, once a global profit gusher. More brands have entered the trainer market, the constant flow of innovation is getting hard to sustain (what else can you do to a trainer?); and there's a major move away from trainers as the shoe - the one you spend big money on - amongst leading-edge juvenile delinquents.

So it's hard to make an impression in this world - and expensive. But Umbro, the football-kit makers, seem prepared to try. They've got yet another of these hugely ambitious, art-directed ethnic stories - but this time it's one that holds together, has some narrative tension, and relates credibly to the brand. The proposition is that Umbro is the "heart and soul of football". And where does football rouse most passions (and provide the best locations)? In shanty-town South America, of course. So we have a story of a picturesque - ie very poor - nation coming to a halt when The Big Match is on television; we have TV in its rightful place, dominating crowded shacks; we have attractive streets of deserted, crumbly Hispanic houses (see also the BA Holiday ads); we have traffic jams; and we have lithe, brown young lovers halted in mid-clinch while the boy watches that crucial penalty. Everyone in the bar is frozen to the spot, too.

And when the ball is in the net, planes fly over holy statues; pigeons scatter from the town square; and the television set flies over the shanty wall. All this orchestrated by frantic samba, halted for a six-gun salute at the critical moment. It's terribly well done and it'll be widely loved by the middle-class, Hornby-reading football fan. But will it go down such a treat with the 12-year-old whose demands for visibly branded kit Umbro is trying to divert away from that supplied by uppity football teams?

8 Video supplied by Tellex Commercials.

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