Off-White collaborates with AC Milan football club

The creator Virgil Abloh disappeared in 2021, founder of the label Off-White.  Photo by Jean-Baptiste Mondino.
The creator Virgil Abloh disappeared in 2021, founder of the label Off-White.  Photo by Jean-Baptiste Mondino.

The creator Virgil Abloh disappeared in 2021, founder of the label Off-White. Photo by Jean-Baptiste Mondino.

Football has long suffered from its image as an outlet for the lowest human impulses. : racism, homophobia and misogyny have often tarnished the image of the king of sports. Protesting against these filthy demonstrations, a new generation of athletes dares to speak out and assume strong political and positive commitments. Inspired by the example of LeBron James or other American athletes, these footballers take the risk of attracting the wrath of part of the public by asserting their positions. This is how Antoine Griezmann, for example, posed on the cover of Têtu magazine, protesting against homophobia in football. The PSG players, together with those of the Turkish club Basaksehir, took the unprecedented decision to end a Champions League meeting and return to their locker room, to protest against the perceived racist remarks of the 4e match referee.

This is how football, like the rest of the world, changes… To attract gen Z, he can no longer be satisfied with his technical brilliance and his track record. He must make the effort to convince. It is in this perspective that the ultra-innovative partnership between Off-White and AC Milan falls. The label founded by Virgil Abloh has now become more than just a club outfitter: its “Style and Culture Curator”. other in terms of ethos, inspired by the project “I Bracket” launched in 2020 by the late Virgil Abloh – articulating a message of support from the designer to a community, through capsule collections and T-shirts spelling out “I Support Black Businesses” or « I Support All Forms Of Love”

Off-White™ c/o AC Milan

For its part, AC Milan also took in 2020 innovative initiatives to promote, through its influence, positive values, both in its own community and more generally in society. RespAct, a manifesto for equity, diversity and inclusion, developed an ambitious program of concrete actions, including interventions in schools in Lombardy to raise young people’s awareness of the issue of racism, enlisting as animators of the players and the executives of the club. Or the scrupulous moderation of comments on its social networks, allowing hate messages to be reduced by 70% in two years. As part of the partnership with Off-White, the label and the club will launch joint initiatives via Fondazione Milan, the foundation that helps disadvantaged young people. To concretely manifest the inner beauty of the two entities, the uniforms will be embroidered with the words “WEAR YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE” [portez votre cœur sur le bras, soit la version anglaise de l’expression « avoir la main sur le cœur »].

In this story, they are two opinion leaders who join forces. AC Milan have found their way back to success this year, winning the Italian championship after eleven years of scarcity. He is also often mentioned for his innovative communication strategy. Thus, the club did not wait for Off-White to « know how to talk to Gen Z ». In one of his podcasts, the very venerable Corriere della sera, immense Italian daily, analyzed everything that made victorious AC Milan a cultural exception, with totally avant-garde communication: it shines in particular by its ability to understand that young people do not follow the classic model of supporterism established by previous generations. Following two 90-minute matches a week in their entirety on a single screen, when perhaps only one or two goals will be scored during this long period of time, is indeed no longer an acceptable reality. Journalist of Corriere della seraFederico Cella commented on the phenomenon in these terms: “Young people do not immediately feel affiliated with the club. The new supporter can for example see on Instagram that the players go to Paris fashion week, discover Rafael Leão’s trap pieces [l’attaquant portugais de 23 ans élu meilleur joueur de Serie A de la saison précédente] on Spotify, or follow on Twitch the exploits of Diego Campagnani, the leader of the AC Milan esports team [en 2020, en réponse au confinement, le club se montrait pionnier dans ce secteur en créant sa propre équipe sous la houlette du triple champion d’Italie de FIFA]. At that moment, he decides that this world is not old and dusty, and that he likes it”. In its effort to renew itself, the club is supported by the young Rafael Leão who has his own brand of streetwear, who appears on his networks playing video games, who listens to and composes trap. AC Milan sees itself in this way, explains Federico Cella, no longer as a sports club but as an entertainment company. In their state-of-the-art headquarters, there is an in-house editorial team of 40 journalists and social media specialists who produce content for all platforms and in all languages, also offering live during matches, statistics, influencer comments, videos TikTok created according to the latest trends in vogue on this platform.

Off-White’s rapprochement with the red and black house, bought just after its victory by the American group RedBird, therefore confirms that football is in the process of operating a total mutation by creating a completely different relationship with the supporters, fighting against boredom, multiplying the speaking out in all sectors (the PSG opens for example PSG cafés and academies, and multiplies creative collaborations, particularly in fashion) so that the clubs become 360° cultural actors. Some players already saw, in the advent of VAR (video-assisted refereeing), the beginning of football’s « becoming Playstation »… while PSG matches are now broadcast on Amazon Prime video, the entertainment giant Amazon, we can only observe, with an amused eye, what will actually happen to the “king sport” born in the middle of the 19e century.

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