Welcome to A Word From Our Sponsors, another of our regular features on Beyond The Last Man that will be taking a look back at football advertising and marketing over the past six decades.
The first in this series focuses on Tottenham’s glory team of the early 1960s, a stylish and free-flowing side that captured the hearts and minds of the footballing public at large. Tottenham won the fabled double in 1961 and retained the FA Cup the following year. Their team was sprinkled with great footballers like Danny Blanchflower, Cliff Jones, Jimmy Greaves, Dave Mackay and John White and together they played in a cosmopolitan, European style, somewhat at odds with the more direct mentality that prevailed at the time. Tottenham represented an exotic proposition to fans and advertisers alike.
Their successful period coincided with a number of other social factors that helped raised their profile still further. This was the fledgling age of regular televised football and, as the top side of the day, Tottenham gained exposure to a broader audience than other successful clubs that went before them. This helped attract new supporters from further afield, supporters who for the first time since the end of the war had disposable income to spend. Companies were quick to spot these changing trends and offer a range of products aimed to take fullest advantage of Tottenham’s status.
Umbro supplied Tottenham’s kit and advertised this association extensively. The 1959 launch of their Junior Boys Kit pioneered the sale of replica kits to the public, and it was Tottenham’s subsequent success that really galvanised public sales. The company’s marketing was quite forward-looking too. Most print-based sports advertising of the time was text-heavy, cluttered and paid little attention to graphics whereas the Umbro adverts conveyed simple, concise messages and conformed visually to a less-is-more aesthetic. The ads followed a theme – preparation, participation and ultimately success on the pitch achieved hand in hand with the official supplier.
Umbro also had UK distribution rights for Tottenham’s boot supplier, Adidas, so much of their marketing was joint promotion of the brands and their respective tie-ins. A mention here too for the small Yorkshire based company Litesome who focused on the manufacture of football socks and supplied this part of the Tottenham kit. Boasting a relationship with the little-known boot-maker Lawrence, Jimmy Greaves was one of the privileged few in Tottenham’s squad to have his own boot deal. Click on any of the images below to open the gallery.
In the early 1960s, the Football League and FA did not have specific contracts with ball manufacturers, just rules for size and weight that companies had to conform to. Minerva was a sizeable player in the ball market, although less active in their Tottenham marketing than other suppliers.
Frido manufactured vinyl footballs that were pitched as ideal for training rather than match-day use. The company supplied Tottenham and advertised the connection heavily. The thrust of their message implied that Tottenham had become such a fine team through hard work on the training ground, work made all the easier by having Frido footballs at hand.
Frido balls were rather curious affairs, lighter than conventional balls but heavier than they looked like they should be. The bounce and roll could charitably be described as erratic and the balls seemed good only for bringing out the inner Rivelino in professional or park player alike – any wallop would see one fly off into the distance whilst demonstrating random dip and swerve that defied all known laws of physics. Whether they were actually used in training at all was questionable; if nothing else they conjure up images of players like Jimmy Greaves and Dave Mackay, forlornly trying to recover wayward Frido-powered shots that ended up lodged in floodlights or rolling unevenly down Tottenham High Road.
Football books of the era tended to be most commonly ghost-written, end-of-career player autobiographies, or lightweight Football Annuals aimed at younger fans and very popular as Christmas presents. With Tottenham’s success came new genres of football publication that would focus on specific events for one club, rather than generic writing on many. Books that looked at the tactics that drove Tottenham’s success, or a match-by-match retelling of the season padded out with player and staff interviews started to emerge.
Danny Blanchflower was one of the earliest footballers to bring celebrity endorsement to third-party products with his 1959 Danny Blanchflower’s Soccer Book. Danny and Cliff Jones were among the members of the double team who broke the then unwritten law of player autobiographies. They cleverly chose to release books at the peak of their Double fame to maximise sales, rather than at the end of their careers.
Newspaper serialisations, kids comic give-away promotions, cigarette cards and even individuals who had shot photographs of the team and wanted to cash in on their work: the rush to exploit an association with Spurs from businesses and individuals was unprecedented.
Thanks to http://www.whitecardlane.me.uk for use of several of the images in our final section.