Don’t look now, but the London Olympics are right around the corner, and you know what that means:
sportsmanship athletic excellence more jokes about how the logo looks like Lisa Simpson giving a blowjob exhuming Keith Moon some major corporate branding shenanigans.
That’s the takeaway from this story that ran in the Guardian last Friday, which spells out the incredible measures that the Olympics’ organizers are taking to protect their sponsors’ brand integrity. Here’s my favorite part: “[A] crack team of branding ‘police’ … will be checking every bathroom in every Olympic venue, with the power to remove or tape over manufacturers’ logos even on soap dispensers, wash basins, and toilets.”
Ah, yes — logo-policing the loo. Now there’s a great exemplar of the Olympic spirit.
Joking aside, the branding culture at the Olympics is serious stuff — not just from a business standpoint but from a governmental standpoint. Did you know any country hosting the games is required to pass special legislation designed to protect the event’s sponsors? I didn’t, until I read this portion of the Guardian article:
Britain already has a range of legal protections for brands and copyright holders, but the Olympic Games demand their own rules. Since the Sydney Games in 2000, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has required bidding governments to commit to introducing bespoke legislation to offer a further layer of legal sanction.
In 2006, accordingly, Parliament passed the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act, which, together with the Olympic Symbol (Protection) Act of 1995, offers a special level of protection to the Games and their sponsors over and above that already promised by existing copyright or contract law. A breach of these acts will not only give rise to a civil grievance, but is a criminal offence.
“It is certainly very tough legislation,” says Paul Jordan, a partner and marketing specialist at law firm Bristows, which is advising both official sponsors and non-sponsoring businesses on the new laws. “Every major brand in the world would give their eye teeth to have [a piece of legislation] like this. One can imagine something like a Google or a Microsoft would be delighted to have some very special recognition of their brand in the way that clearly the IOC has.”
Now, we all know that companies ask for certain favors when being wooed by municipalities. “Want us to build a plant in your city? Give us a tax break” or “Float us a bond” or whatever. But that’s kiddie stuff compared to the IOC demanding that a country pass special legislation in return for the “privilege” of hosting an event that’s often a net financial loss. Amazing.
One small item in that article is of particular note to us here at Uni Watch: A survey of UK Twitter users found that the sponsor they most associate with the upcoming London games is Nike — which is funny, because Nike isn’t an official sponsor of these games (Adidas is, to the tune of £100 million). I’m not sure if this is a testament to Nike’s ubiquity or to the stupidity of Twitter users. Either way, it’s interesting.
(Kudos to Harry Shearer’s excellent radio program Le Show, which is where I first heard about the Guardian article.)
A different kind of uniform: I haven’t worked in an office since 1996. And even then, I wore jeans to work most of the time. In other words: I haven’t had much need for a suit. The last one I bought was in 1991, and it’s served me just fine over the past 21 years. I typically need to wear it only once or twice a year. Sometimes not even that often.
The old suit still fits me, but not as well as it once did. And last year a moth hole showed up on the jacket (in a rather inconspicuous spot, but still). I tried to ignore these signals, but recently I admitted to myself that it was finally time to get a new suit. At first I thought I’d get a vintage model, but I wasn’t able to find anything I liked, so I figured I’d go to a menswear shop. But then I saw an ad for one of those Hong Kong tailors who set up shop in a hotel suite and take your measurements and let you pick your own fabric and all that. Hmmmm, I thought — if this next suit lasts as long as the previous one did, it’ll basically take me through the rest of my suit-wearing life. So why not do it right? Why not indeed.
So last week I found myself taking an elevator up to the 43rd floor of the Marriott Marquis in midtown, where three gentlemen from Empire Tailors were waiting for me. We exchanged pleasantries, they explained a few things to me, and then they set me loose on a few dozen fabric swatch books so I could find the fabric I wanted.
I had a rough idea of what I wanted — an olive-ish mini-check pattern with some sort of overlaid windowpane, in a mid-weight fabric — and spent the better part of an hour poring over fabric swatches in search of it. The swatches were wonderful. So many variations, so many intricate patterns, and really nice to the touch. It would’ve been easy to spend the whole day looking through them, but I eventually focused on the task at hand and narrowed my choices down to four options, then two, and then one. The winner was pretty much what I’d had in mind — olive-ish with a nice overlaid pattern.
(I don’t know why, but I completely neglected to take any photos. Stupid! I later called the tailor and asked if he could take a photo of my swatch and e-mail it to me. Unfortunately, the photo he sent kinda sucks — trust me, the real thing looks nicer than that. But at least it provides a rough idea of what I chose.)
Although I don’t wear a suit very often, I have pretty specific ideas about menswear (I like three-button jackets, fairly high button placement, narrow-ish lapels, and fairly narrow pant legs with cuffs), so it was fun to spell out exactly what I wanted to the tailor. Asked him lots of questions, too: Do I get to choose the buttons? What about the lining? Can we make the jacket a little shorter? Can I specify how many buttons there are on the sleeves? At one point he said, “Oh, you must wear suits quite a bit, yes?” “Almost never,” I replied, which he seemed to find perplexing.
As we were wrapping up, I thought of something: Suit pants almost always have button-through back pockets. I hate those buttons — they get in the way when I’m reaching for my wallet. Why are those buttons even there? If the pocket is buttoned, you can’t use it; if you leave it unbuttoned, it looks like shit (the pocket equivalent of having your fly open). So I said, “Oh, one more thing: No buttons on the back pockets.”
The tailor looked aghast. “Are you sure?” he said. Yes, I told him, I’m sure. It was a small but very satisfying moment.
The finished suit won’t arrive until June or so. Let’s hope my old suit doesn’t get any more moth holes between now and then.
By Brinke Guthrie
Nice artwork on this 1968 Dodge AFL promo magazine, but look at the artwork for the then-“fledgling” Bengals. Was the artist just guessing as to what their look would be? Other companies like Campbell’s Soup were capitalizing on the NFL/AFL rivalry around that same time, though. By 1969, artists had the Bengals look down, as this stylized game program shows. [That Campbell's thingie is one of the greatest items ever featured in Collector's Corner! — PL]
That “AFL Pictorial” game program style must have been a league-wide look for 1969, because here it is again for this Denver/Boston game. And shifting over to the senior circuit, these 1967 Vikings programs (with killer artwork!) were published under the name NFL Illustrated, which looks like the forerunner to the PRO! program we all know.
Other finds from this week:
• Love the clean (albeit dated) look to this 1970/71 ESSO NHL hockey schedule.
• Never seen a vintage NFL mini-helmet sold on an NFL shield blister card before.
• Gatorade NFL caps alert! The whole 1971 set is right here.
• Huge lot of 1970s NFL bobbleheads here.
• Here’s a nice retro 1970s California Angels Starter jacket, and note the huge state logo on the back.
• I love this early-1970s Texas Rangers jacket from Sand Knit. Not a real game jacket, despite what the ad text says — logo is way off. But it still brings back memories of Arlington Stadium for me.
• Dodgers fans will love this 1965 Union 76 thermal cup set, which featured all-timers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. Eleven cups total! Artwork by the great Nicholas Volpe, of course. Pair ’em with these Volpe prints.
Seen something on eBay or Etsy (or anywhere else) that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here.
Out with the old…: Playbook, the new ESPN.com section that’s replacing Page 2, is now up and running. As I explained on Friday, Playbook consists of seven sections, one of which is called Fandom — that’s where my work will appear. I had two entries posted yesterday: one about how hard it be to keep uni-related secrets and one that’s basically my version of Brinke’s “Collector’s Corner” (I’m gonna do that for Fandom on a semi-regular basis). As I said on Friday, my ESPN work will probably get shorter and more frequent — i.e., more blog-ish — under the Playbook/Fandom format, but everything here at this site should remain pretty much the same. OK? OK.
Uni Watch News Ticker: The Steelers will unveil their throwback design today at 4:30pm, with live coverage on Steelers.com. All I can say is prepare to either love it or hate it. I’m pretty sure there will be no middle ground. … Small NFL change that I’m able to share with you: New road socks (which I guess are also the home socks) for the Browns. I say “road socks” euphemistically, of course, since the Browns wore white at home last year. No change to the brown-topped socks that are worn with the brown jerseys, although who knows when they’ll wear that design again. Meanwhile, no word on what all of this will mean for Joshua Cribbs and his arm warmers. … With all the chatter about how new Hornets owner Tom Benson may change the team name, lots of you have been submitting new team names and uni designs. Please hold your fire for another day or two — I’ll run an ESPN contest on this topic later this week. … Meanwhile, since the Hornets name may be scrapped in New Orleans, a fan group in North Carolina wants to bring it back to Charlotte. … Uni advertising is coming to basketball after all — in the D-League, at least for the postseason. Eh, whatever, like anyone really cares about the D-League. … The Braves are retiring John Smoltz’s number. … The Syracuse Chiefs wore Negro Leagues-inspired uniforms for Jackie Day (from Rick DiRubbo). … The original century-old blueprints for Ebbets Field were recently discovered in a basement and are about to be put on display. … Johns Hopkins lacrosse wore 1970s throwbacks on Saturday. “While the jersey and shorts represent a solid retro motif (and also happen to be gorgeous), the real treats are the helmets and gloves,” says James Dougherty. “The helmets, apparently through decaling, were made to look like the old style panel helmets (aka bucket helmets) that prevailed in until the mid-1990’s when they were replaced with the Cascade-style helmets. The attention to detail on the throwbacks was astonishing, including faux stitching around the visor and faux laces on the back (yes, lacrosse helmets had laces into the 1990s). As for the gloves, they were rendered in tan. Prior to the late ’70s, all gloves were tan, whether made of leather or nylon-coated.” … Oooh, check out these old football “scrimmage aprons” from 1941 (nice find by Bart Miller). … Northwestern will be getting new Under Armour uniforms this fall, at least judging by this video clip. … “I was at the Nationals/Reds game on Friday and noticed Mark DeRosa didn’t have an MLB logo on the back of his cap,” writes Doug Erwin. “Another player who was in the dugout the whole game (I think it was Ross Detweiler, the fifth starter) also didn’t have a logo, but I couldn’t get a picture of him.” Man, DeRosa looks soooo much better than his teammates without the logo badge. Hope he doesn’t wear out that cap too soon. … A very obsessed Phillies fan has DIY’d himself a jersey from 3000 beverage can tabs (thanks, Brinke). … “I attended a breakfast on Monday morning at which Todd Graham, ASU’s new football coach, was the speaker,” says Marc Altieri. “He said he requires all the players to wear exactly the same uniform for games. He doesn’t allow any of the players to differentiate themselves from the team. All players wear the same shoes and socks and he doesn’t allow them to wear any special wristbands or other personal items.” … Several readers sent me these photos of new Ole Miss helmets yesterday. I have no idea how legit they are. … New kits for the U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams (from Kenn Tomasch). … New football uniforms for Eastern Michigan. “They’re Adidas tech-fit, so I’m sure they’ll fit like shit,” says Jacob Kubuske. … “He definitely needs some work on the blousing, but I have to say I was one proud dad when my son went out on the field looking like this,” says Mike Raymer. “The best part: He did it totally on his own.” … “Last year in Brazil’s Men’s Superliga volleyball league playoffs, Volei Futuro player Michael Pinto dos Santos was outed by an opposing team’s fans during a playoff series,” says Jeremy Brahm. “This happened in the first match of a best-of-three series. In the second match, the libero wore this rainbow jersey. ‘Contra O Preconceito’ means ‘without bias’ in Portuguese.” … Also from Jeremy: Ever since I was a young boy, I played the silver ball. The story there is that the MLS champions gets to use a silver soccer ball for all their home matches. … Novak Djokovic is Nike-bound (thanks, Brinke). … We’ve all seen examples of umpires who had to wear makeshift gear when their luggage got lost. But I’d never seen this one, with the home plate ump wearing an Astros dugout jacket! That comes from this video clip (major thanks to Mike Nessen). … Odd that the Broncos would send Peyton Manning out to meet in the media in Reebok gear yesterday (good spot by Brandon Schwartz). … “Barry Zito is no longer wearing his striped socks,” notes Jeff La Haie. “He was the only player who consistently wore them since they were introduced two years ago. Sergio Romo is still wearing them, but he has alternated his stock stylings quite a bit in the past and presumably might do so again. The bigger change is that the batboys, who had worn the striped socks, are back to wearing the all black socks. Not sure if this change is organization-wide, but I am sad to see it nonetheless.” … College fishing is a club sport, not NCAA-sanctioned, which I guess explains the potpurri of jersey sponsorships. “It appears they all used the same template,” notes Sean Kautzman. “I really hate how the Plano logo is encroaching on the VT school logo. Most companies and institutions frown on this, and like to keep a ‘no-fly zone’ around their logo.” … Kevin Cunningham ordered himself a customized Giants road jersey, which for some reason arrived with NFL tagging.