How football can kick luxury brands into shape

category - sports
type - big idea
Big Idea
sector - luxury
False 9 co-founders Jordan Wise and Hamish Stephenson are on a mission to elevate and promote the reach of football – with a close eye on luxury brands

Can you begin by telling us what False 9 does?

Jordan Wise: We’re a creative agency focused on the pillars of football, fashion, music and culture, working with brands and talent – so footballers, musicians – to drive conversations and content that speaks to global audiences.

We work with brands such as Nike, Burberry and StockX on campaigns, but we also run a football-focused lifestyle publication called Gaffer, which we launched in 2018.

Gaffer started life as a video platform creating short football documentaries but we thought: ‘Hold on, let’s spin this and do a premium print magazine that we can send to brands, retailers and players around the world.'

With your work in mind, how are brand and sports partnerships evolving, compared with what we’ve seen historically?

Hamish Stephenson: For many years ­– certainly in Europe – there has been a lot of negative stereotypes that come with being a footballer; they’ve been considered tacky. But the evolution of who is an influencer means that prominent footballers not only have their own voice but also huge communities that follow them. Brands or commercial partners are realising this; more sportsmen and women are owning their personalities and identities in campaigns. Their generation – Gen Z – also have a very sharp social consciousness, which is where the conversation becomes very interesting for brands.

Published by:

8 July 2021

Author: Kathryn Bishop

Image: A Wink and A Roar exhibition by Gaffer in collaboration with Nike. Photography by Olivia Rose


A Wink and A Roar exhibition by Gaffer in collaboration with Nike. Photography by Olivia Rose

Are social media channels shaping the way footballers or sports players communicate?

HS: Everything’s raw and unfiltered on social media now. Young players in particular are really honest; it’s their identity and they're not ashamed of it. Yet they can be major outlets for brands. Karim Benzema, for example, has almost 50m followers across Twitter and Instagram, and high engagement.

Does this honesty affect the sort of content or campaigns you create with brands?

JW: There is a real appetite among athletes and musicians to tell their stories, but they’re protective over how these will be projected and making sure that they are really premium. It’s about brands taking into consideration the perspective of the talent and working with them rather than putting them into completely contrived situations.

HS: I used to shoot with brands and the players wouldn’t be engaged at all. They didn’t want to push the content themselves [online] because it didn’t feel like them. Now, every time we have a shoot, we say: ‘Bring whoever you want down.’ We make sure the music is loud, there’s a bar, there's loads of Nando’s. Whatever it is, we make sure that it’s an environment where they’re not looking at their watches or phones every five minutes.

For luxury brands, why is it crucial that they reach a football or sports audience?

JW: I don’t think brands really have a choice. If they want to relate to the [Gen Z] consumer, which they have to do, they have to become rawer and more honest themselves, which we’re now seeing.

HS: It's showing that they’re more in touch with this generation, as seen with the campaign we did with Nike and England Football in early 2020. It featured new players coming through who embodied everything we're talking about here. Nike let us run with it; it didn’t try to shape it or get the players to act in a certain way, and the results speak for themselves.

‘Nike didn’t try to shape our shoot with England Football or to get the players to act in a certain way – the results speak for themselves’

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