How luxury became enamored with sports

In the luxury world, few trends manage to garner attention like sport does, the pinnacle of athletes overcoming physical adversity. In the midst of the FIFA World Cup 2018 and Wimbledon on their tail end, we take a look at how luxury brands cleverly thrive off sport events.

Hublot has been pioneering this luxury phenomenon in football, starting in 2006 with its sponsorship of the Swiss National Team. The brand then became “Official Timekeeper and Official Watch” for the UEFA EURO 2008. The idea for Hublot’s involvement in football came from Jean-Claude Biver, Chairman of Hublot and President of the LVMH Group’s Watches Division. His idea was to “go where the potential customers are”. In 2010, the company became the first historic “Official Timekeeper” of FIFA for the World Cup in South Africa, and the two following football World Cups, in Brazil in 2014 and in Russia in 2018. 

The latest occurrence marked the brand’s third partnership with the FIFA World Cup, and Hublot released its first smartwatch for use by referees in order to celebrate. Designed at the organisers’ request, the Big Bang Referee 2018 enabled referees on the field to connect directly to the video referees. But this is also a watch for the fans, who enjoyed its many World Cup-related functions such as sending notifications shortly before the game and a full display of statistics throughout the game. By being more accessible in its price tag and communication, the brand is sure to gain tremendous attention among a bigger audience.

In a similar vein, Richard Mille has put a huge emphasis on crafting timepieces that can be worn during competition which correlated with a heavy focus on design, engineering and materials. Each timepiece is crafted according to the toughest conditions for a sports-ready watch to endure. For instance, the brand created a specific mechanism for its polo star Pablo Mac Donough, a sapphire crystal that protects the movement from damage if it were struck by a polo ball.

Similar endorsements include star tennis players Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev, both of whom were seen wearing high-end movements during their tenure at the All England Club in Wimbledon, respectively boasting an RM 27-03 and an RM 67-02. Weighing at a mere 32 grams, strap included, the RM 67-02 is a perfect example of luxury gear designed for leisure wear although at an engaging price of around 119,000€. 

And yet again, the spotlight shone on Rolex during the british Grand Slam tournament. The long tenured marketing association of Rolex with Wimbledon started in 1978 and is still magnified today by its endorsement of top athletes such as Roger Federer, highly regarded as the best player of all time and a model of elegance and humility. Capitalising off the achievements of athletes enables brands to display their most important values to potential clients. Zverev’s young and assured demeanor may reflect the innovative design and use of materials of Richard Mille, looking at how seamlessly he hits the ball while wearing his super-light watch.

A different approach is noticed with Louis Vuitton present this year with a special presentation of the trophee for Roland Garros and the FIFA World Cup. When Fred and Panerai have always been linked and associated with sailing and sea sports, Richard Mille and Chopard with motor sports, and Hermès, Ralph Lauren and Jaegger Lecoultre with horse riding and polo sport.

As long as sports provide modern heroes to the general audience, luxury brands will have complete leeway to build awareness off the wide acclaim their brand ambassadors receive. 

Luxury endorsements of athletes and sports events becoming more and more consensual, the most exciting prospect will surely lie in seeing how luxury brands will reconcile selling exclusive quality pieces with the more widespread audience of sports.

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