Many years from now, historians and archivists will look back on 2015 and view it as the year when football kits properly crossed the line into the world of comedy. Oh it's got nothing to do with the kit designs themselves (although have you seen that new Bradford City shirt?) - it's more to do with the marketing campaigns used by some teams to launch their new kits.
Specifically we're talking about slogans here, for slogans are now, apparently, the be-all-and-end-all of your average kit launch. You probably thought that the kit itself was the central focus for any discerning team trying to woo its fans with a new outfit for the coming season, but no. Don't be stupid! If it ain't got a strapline, it ain't worth the shirt on your back.
Take the poster campaign for the Newcastle United 2015/16 Home Kit. Literally, if possible. It's the perfect example of how things are done these days. We have a small selection of outfield players along with one (and only one) goalkeeper, all of them are wearing the new kit, all of them are standing with their feet shoulder-length apart and all have the steely-eyed expression on their face of someone about to commit a very serious crime.
Yet there is also one other element of note: the slogan. It is no longer possible to just position your average bone-head footballer in front of a camera and tell him to look mean and moody. You need words. Inspiring words. Words that will make your average bone-headed too-much-money-in-the-bank-for-their-own-good fan think "YEAH! I'm gonna buy that shirt!"
And so we have the strapline: "Divided we are weak / United we are strong." Because they're Newcastle UNITED, ya see?
Someone wearing an expensive suit came up with those words with the unerring intent of making your average Magpies fan buy the new 2015/16 kit with all haste. And at least it borders on clever. Most of the slogans we're seeing with every passing week are either pathetic, confusing or downright embarrassing.
Liverpool's partnership with New Balance proves the point. 'Hold nothing back' we're told. If only the New Balance kit designers hadn't carried out that order explicitly. But what are we, as consumers, supposed to do with a phrase like that? Are we supposed to tackle everyday life with the uncompromising relish of a fox in a chicken coop? And if so, why should we accept it from a team that lost 6-1 against Stoke on the last day of the season?
Last season's kit was launched with the strapline '#Demand.' #DemandYourMoneyBack, more like.
Probably the best example of supreme bullshittery to emerge in recent days comes from the mighty Watford. 'Our Time Is Now' says the poster. Now if that isn't a copyrighter realising his entire life's become a cliché of the highest order, I don't know what is.
And technically, you could argue that Watford's 'time' was 1983 (not that we begrudge them another high point to rival Graham Taylor's peak of three decades ago). While Watford remain in the Championship, you could argue... well... you could argue.
Never ones to rest on their laurels when there's inane drivel to force down their fans throats, Tottenham have come up with a corker for their new kit - 'Stay Relentless' (coupled with the meek retort 'I will.') Is there any point to all this? Seriously?
Even nowadays it's not uncommon for teams to merely take a picture of some of their players, overlay some text to the effect of 'New Kit Available To Buy Next Wednesday' and consider it 'job done'. Many teams still do that, and there's nothing wrong with doing that either. It shows that a team wants to sell a few shirts but aren't prepared to make themselves look a laughing stock either. Surely it's better to spend the money buying better players to improve your team than to employ a div with a degree who thinks he can co-ordinate an online sales campaign?
But wait - even the French are getting in on the act. 'Partout C'est Chez Nous' screams the poster campaign for the new Olympique Marseille kit, or 'Everywhere is our home,' for all you Anglophiles. Yeah, right. Great. Whoopee.
Not so long ago, the home kit launch for the French national team was accompanied by the words 'Provoque le destin' ('Bring about destiny'). Honestly, is this the start of a slippery slope that leads to an annual Eurovision Bunkum Contest? If so, we can probably do without it...
By now you're probably getting the picture, but alas this isn't the end. With the domestic season now over, there are still plenty of new kits to be launched and the vast majority of them will have a slogan that's supposed to inspire renewed hope and a determination to succeed. The fact that they've all become an anachronism of themselves only proves one thing: the world of football still believes its own hype more than it's ever done before. #againstmodernmarketing
-- Chris Oakley