This week, we take a deep dive into the increasing popularity of soccer in the U.S., bolstered by the Women’s World Cup, and how fashion brands are capitalizing on Americans’ interest in the world’s game. Scroll down to use Glossy+ Comments, giving the Glossy+ community the opportunity to join discussions around industry topics.
The Women’s World Cup, taking place from July 20 to August 20 in New Zealand and Australia, has wrapped its first week. The tournament is one of the biggest women’s sporting events in the world, and soccer is by far the most popular sport globally. Fashion brands, always eager to engage with the popular elements of culture, are capitalizing on the increased popularity of soccer in the U.S. thanks to events like the Women’s World Cup.
For this year’s tournament, Martine Rose, the up-and-coming British fashion designer with celebrity fans including Drake and Kendrick Lamar, worked with the U.S. Women’s National Team, the current reigning champs of women’s soccer after their victory in 2019. Rose is dressing the team in their official off-field outfits, made up of vibrant blue suits with the player’s initials embroidered on the lapel, plus colorful sneakers and sunglasses.
An image of U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe wearing the Martine Rose collection amassed more than 140,000 likes on Instagram when it was posted by Nike at the beginning of the tournament.
Suzanne Mckenzie, CEO of the soccer-themed sustainable fashion brand Able Made, said a variety of factors within the last year have contributed to soccer’s growing popularity in the U.S. That includes big events like the Women’s World Cup; successful American players in major European soccer leagues, like Christian Pulisic and Matt Turner; and legendary player Lionel Messi coming to play in the American soccer league MLS.
“There’s been a big change in how popular soccer is in the U.S. since we first started [in 2013],” Mckenzie said. Able Made relaunched in 2022 with a focus on ready-to-wear fashion, moving on from a collaboration-focused model that included collections with Puma, among other brands. McKenzie has been involved in soccer since 2009 when she founded the Ucal McKenzie Breakaway Foundation, a Boston-based non-profit soccer academy for youths, in honor of her late husband, semi-professional soccer coach Ucal McKenzie.
Earlier this week, Abel Made announced a collaboration with British luxury brand Burberry to upcycle Burberry fabrics into soccer apparel. The brand opened its first permanent store in Connecticut this year, plus it maintains an ongoing presence via pop-ups in Brooklyn and at Manhattan’s The Shops in Columbus Circle. In April, it launched its first soccer-themed ready-to-wear collection, which sold out in a day. McKenzie said 2022 was the brand’s best year, to date in terms of revenue. Big soccer events like the Women’s World Cup have a tangible impact on sales, she said.
Between 1972 and 2004, the number of Americans who said soccer was their favorite sport rose from 0.5% to just 2%. By 2022, that number had jumped significantly, to nearly 10% of the population.
Adidas is one of the biggest sponsors of soccer teams and players in the sport, working with superstar players like Lionel Messi and the most valuable soccer team in the world, Manchester City. For the Women’s World Cup, the brand released an ad campaign featuring U.S. players Alessia Russo, Lena Oberdorf and Mary Fowler; men’s soccer legends David Beckham and Lionel Messi; and soccer-loving celebrities like Jenna Ortega. According to Launchmetrics data, the campaign generated $2.8 million in media impact value, with the post featuring Ortega making up $782,000 worth of media impact value.
Speaking of the U.S. Women’s National Team, Rupert Campbell, president of Adidas, North America, announced that Adidas had signed deals with women’s soccer stars Chloe Ricketts and Mia Bhuta.
Campbell said influence from soccer apparel is seeping into casual and streetwear fashion, something Adidas is aware of and has been working into its Adidas Originals collections. Just look at the current craze around the Adidas Samba, a shoe with roots in indoor soccer footwear that’s been a regular sellout thanks to being worn by celebrities like Olivia Rodrigo.
The Samba topped the Lyst Index of hottest products last year, and demand has reportedly risen tenfold in the last two years, with designers like Grace Wales Bonner and Ronnie Fieg putting their own spins on the classic soccer shoe. Even Louis Vuitton creative director Pharrell Williams is collaborating with Adidas on a version of the Samba, set to launch later this summer.
“Not only are we doubling down on sport, but we’re also combining it with fashion and style to create new and exciting looks that will reach more consumers and audiences,” Campbell said.
The Massachussets-based footwear brand Heydude is another brand capitalizing on the Women’s World Cup. On July 19, the brand announced U.S. Women’s National Team player Julie Ertz as its brand ambassador. At the same time, it dropped a new collection in collaboration with Ertz and added a new section to its e-commerce site called “Julie Ertz’s Starting 11,” featuring 11 of her favorite products.
“Women, and women’s soccer, have massive momentum right now,” said Kelli McCusker, CMO of Heydude. “We love the greater voice and expansion of soccer broadly, [with the growth of] women’s soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League.”
Earlier this month, Lionel Messi, seen by many as one of the greatest soccer players in history, held a press conference announcing that he would be joining the newly formed American soccer team Inter Miami. Messi is one of the most popular players of all time, and his announcement led to six months’ worth of Inter Miami merchandise selling out in a day’s time. His jersey, which won’t be available until October, already has a months-long waitlist. Adidas also launched a collection of Messi-in-Miami-related gear, on July 23.
McKenzie said the halo effect of the Messi news and even the popularity of the show “Ted Lasso,” about an American football coach leading an English soccer team, have helped her brand grow. Able Made closed a $1.2 million fundraising round earlier this year and is in the middle of closing a multimillion-dollar Series A round with investors including Nike.
“There’s so much crossover between sports and fashion, and soccer is a big part of that,” she said. “Lebron is a part owner of [British club team] Liverpool, plus [NBA players] Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and Kevin Durant both own teams. They’re all such stylish and influential men. The crossover and support between the two are growing all the time.”