This month, Algerian football legend Zinedine Zidane became Montblanc’s latest muse, adding his celebrated name, and respected legacy, to an already long list of close collaborators and friends of the Alpine label. Although it’s no real surprise to see a world-cup-winning athlete turn into a brand ambassador, the Marseille-born athlete’s recent appointment as the face of the Swiss-based brand mirrors a growing trend that sees footballers front and center of ad campaigns and editorials. It’s true, the realms of football and fashion have never been closer than today, making us wonder how the “Beautiful game” eventually grew into becoming dubbed as the most fashionable one out there.
As far as most of us can remember, players and coaches alike have always managed to generate a reach that rivals that of the most beloved Hollywood icons. Whenever a successful footballer speaks, people take the time to listen, whatever a footballer is seen liking eventually becomes a hit, and so naturally, whatever a footballer wears is almost immediately emulated, imitated, and copied by thousands, not to say millions, around the world. From a marketing perspective, it’s very obvious how this aura, influence, and image, once honed and harnessed, can become appealing to the most sophisticated and exclusive of existing brands. And with five billion fans across the world, football has a bigger global reach than any other sport in the world.
Many would credit British footballer David Beckham as one of the first to have bridged both worlds together, although it wasn’t without any trouble or difficulty. His form with his successive clubs and the English squad, coupled with his union with pop music sensation Victoria Beckham (nee Adams), at the time a Spice Girl, turned Manchester United’s former number seven into one of the most in-demand individuals there were to be seen. In other words, Beckham wasn’t just an athlete anymore, he represented much more: he was the football world’s first athlete-turned-celebrity and subsequently one of the most marketable men on the planet. Sure, players like Maradona or Pele can also be cited as some of the greatest ever, but none seemed to have had the impact on pop culture the same way that the London-born midfielder had.
The late naughties and early 2000s were undeniably under his and Victoria’s spell. Each one of their outings turned into a pop culture moment followed by all, with the pair never shying away from matching their fits and hairstyles to generate twice as much noise as they would if they were to do the same on their own. Now a recognized star on and off the pitch, his union with the multi-award-winning artist and lead singer can definitely be seen as a catalyzing moment in the midfielder’s glorious career, also shifting the former relationship the sport had with the high-end industry as well. And if men lie, numbers surely don’t and in this case, they reveal how lucrative the now-turned model became. Arguably at one of the many peaks of his career, Beckham inked a $23 million deal with Italian luxury label Giorgio Armani to become ambassador of the brand, which shows just how much he was worth but also how much more he could potentially bring in following his enrollment with the Lombardian powerhouse.
Since Beckham, many have followed in his steps, begging the question: Are footballers the new fashion icons? Dutch striker and FC Barcelona forward Memphis Depay is the face of Valentino, Marcus Rashford recently partnered with Burberry, Hector Bellerin served as the face of Louis Vuitton, Dior appointed Kylian Mbappe as the global ambassador, and just this month, Karim Benzema was tapped as Fendi’s newest sneaker ambassador.
Some players even went on to launch their own clothing brands, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Beckham (obviously) designing entire collections for fans to enjoy and coat themselves in.
Today football players have proved to be important cultural engines, able to translate hat tricks into hat sales, and beyond. Proving how football boots can be swapped into runway loafers with the right image and aura, football’s inner spirit of being the sport of the people, providing them with the ultimate role model to look up to from an athletic perspective now also put aesthetic and lifestyle at the center of the average consumer’s cravings. So, if you ask us, the new wave of fashion icons are no longer coming from Hollywood sets, but football fields.