When Markets Malfunction: The Curious Case of the Guangzhou Evergrande Jersey

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 12.25.52As many of this blog’s readers throughout the world will be aware, the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup (‘2013 CWC’) is currently being played in the Kingdom of Morocco, where the six club champions of the world’s continental federations – joined by the 2012-2013 Moroccan league winners Raja Casablanca – are battling it out for the title of world champions. Despite (or perhaps because of) his busy schedule, our Creative Director & CSO found time to catch some of yesterday’s quarter-final tie between CWC regulars Al-Ahly of Egypt and Africa, and Guangzhou Evergrande, the new Chinese kid on the block and the Asian confederation’s representative.

Evergrande’s story, even by the standards of fairytales, is some yarn: this is a team that only turned professional in 1993 and as recently as 2010 were playing in the second tier of the People’s Republic of China football pyramid, yet today they are competing for global supremacy. Winners of the 2013 AFC Champions League on only their second appearance in the competition, Evergrande are serious contenders for the 2013 Club World Cup following a spirited and intelligent 2-0 win over their African counterparts.

During the tie against Al-Ahly, we at Mediolana couldn’t help but notice that Evergrande were playing in a truly iconic Nike kit: a yellow away strip replete with a fetching Chinese flag on the torso for the special occasion. Our interest piqued, we opened another browser tab to see the price of this outstanding piece of sartorial genius manufactured by a company that more often than not makes us despair. It was at this point that our confidence in global consumerism took a big hit.

Guangzhou Evergrande are currently the most successful club in the world’s largest country by population; they reign supreme in Asian competition; and they are playing for the most prestigious title in world club football. But trying to find an official replica strip for this club from the current tournament is a herculean task which even the Internet and the incredibly entrepreneurial Chinese diaspora have seemingly not managed to solve between them.

The official Evergrande site yields nothing in English bar a link to a shopping mall with no obvious connection with the club; Europe-based sellers only have the domestic league shirt for sale, not the CWC one; and the myriad of sellers on Chinese e-commerce sites such as Taobao do not feature this shirt on their pages. Amazingly, not even FIFA’s own Club World Cup portal has an e-commerce page, while Nike’s China website is substantially generic rather than anything too China-specific.

This could just be a bizarre marketing lacuna, but with so many compromised entities we at Mediolana think not: that the moment when Chinese club football arguably entered global consciousness is not even being commemorated with a beep at the cash register represents a major global cultural and commercial failing; the affected actors should think hard about this lost opportunity.

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2 Comments

Filed under Business, Football, Marketing

2 responses to “When Markets Malfunction: The Curious Case of the Guangzhou Evergrande Jersey

  1. Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise. I’ve always thought of football shirts as being overpriced and representing a strange tribal mindset. Who knows, someone might have taken an ethical stance on the issue to change the way we relate to football clubs.

    • Replica tops are one of the great rip-offs: everyone knows they are largely made for pennies by Our Slaves in Asia, yet we insist on paying top dollar to sportswear companies’ branding departments for the privilege of pretending to be somebody else. Evergrande’s away shirt is a great design, though 🙂

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