From the first, historic sponsorship of Juventus, to Kombat technology and contemporary fashion: the Little Men who continue to inspire soccer

Endless symbols and meanings converge in a football jersey. History, marketing, culture, faith. The identity card of each team is a book to be discovered season after season, a colorful compendium of pop culture, secular religion and fashion that has never stopped evolving, as well as inspiring fascination and reverence. Sensations that manifest and propagate through the halls of the BasicGallery, where a true football shrine is hosted-a colorful catalog of fabrics and logos capable of tracing the history of modern football and, at the same time, recounting a crucial connection, the one between jerseys and technical sponsors. A bond in which Kappa has played and continues to play a key role, which we decided to analyze in our second focus dedicated to the symbiotic relationship between this brand and the sports imaginary.

Torino Football Club 2014-15

THE VECCHIA, NUOVA SIGNORA AND THE BEGINNING OF ALL

“I want to sponsor you.” “Will you give us the money, or do we have to give it to you?” “We’ll give it to you.” Kappa’s entry into the world of football sponsorship can be summed up in what today, nearly half a century later, takes on the appearance of a joke from the theater of the absurd. In 1978, however, the connection between brands and football clubs was still in its infancy, paralyzed at a stage where nothing (or little) had already happened and everything was yet to come.

In that so near, yet so far away historical context, Maglificio Calzificio Torinese CEO Maurizio Vitale organized a meeting with Giampiero Boniperti, president and legend of Juventus. It is here that the surreal repartee takes shape, and it will forever change the history of Italian football, and beyond. Inspired by the visionary instincts of his Marketing Director Marco Boglione, Vitale proposes an almost unreal partnership between Juventus and the brand-manifesto of Maglificio Calzificio Torinese-a proposal that was so avant-garde as to be almost inconceivable to the most famous Italian club.

Until then, in fact, the Italian Federation (specifically the Promocalcio) had not allowed the inclusion of commercial brands on jerseys, instantly sabotaging some archaic ploys attempted by teams such as Udinese and Perugia.

But the 1978-79 season partially opens the doors to new sponsorship logics. The Federation allows only technical sponsors to appear among the club colors. Kappa, in the form of Robe di Kappa, seizes the opportunity and on December 17, 1978, peeps for the first time on the Juventus jersey. Thus was born a glorious relationship destined to last 22 seasons, 7 Scudetti, 7 national cups, 2 Champions League and 2 Uefa Cups. And a new aesthetic level of Italian soccer is unlocked in this way, as well as an iconic connection that will dress Ballon d’Or and the likes of ‘Pablito’ Rossi, ‘Le Roi’ Platini, Roberto Baggio, Zinédine Zidane and ‘Pinturicchio’ Del Piero.

Juventus Football Club 1980-81
Juventus Football Club 1997-98
Juventus Football Club 1997-98
Juventus Football Club 1999/2000
Juventus Football Club - Kappa gallery
Juventus Football Club 1982-83
BasicGallery - Juventus Football Club archive
Juventus Football Club training jersey from the 80s

FROM THE ICONIC 1980s TO THE GOLDEN 1990s

From Turin to the world. Vitale began his own footballing journey by marrying such excellence of his Turin as the ‘Vecchie Signora,’ accompanying her to her second star and the achievement of magical goals, but he soon opened his horizons wide to other evocative Italian clubs and exotic international football epicenters. Some examples are the Roma of then midfielder Carlo Ancelotti, the Auxerre of the young prince, about to become ‘King’, Éric Cantona, and the noble Dutch realm of Ajax.

The Omini logo quickly became synonymous with success, also linking itself to the fairytale of Sampdoria and the ‘Goal Twins’ Vialli-Mancini, and to the Milan of the ‘Immortals’, led to 2 Champions League by Arrigo Sacchi’s automatisms and the overpowering Dutch trio Van Basten-Gullit-Rijkard. After racking up a long string of winning choices, Kappa continued the amplification of its football influence throughout the 1990s, pushing its partnerships and the imagination of each design higher and higher.

If the Barcelona of ‘The Phenomeno’ Ronaldo and Figo, the Athletic Club of Bilbao and its 100-year history, and the Monaco of the young Henry-Trezeguet pairing represent stages of wonder and sporting excellence in the decade of oversize jerseys, teams such as the Betis of Seville of the oracle Denilson, the Porto of Sérgio Conceição, and Manchester City, still in its proletarian era, instead embody the brand’s desire to go beyond simple marriages for the purpose of victory on the field, and consequent visibility. In fact, Kappa’s creativity changes the perception of jerseys through unexpected and, for that very reason, particularly eclectic synergies.

Just think of the ‘Bafana Bafana,’ the South African national team embraced by Nelson Mandela towards the first World Cup in ’98, and shiny jerseys that intrigue the world. Or to Jamaica’s ‘Reggae Boyz,’ also making their World Cup debut in the French edition, and the vibrant patterns accompanying them on that expedition. And again, to clubs with mystical appeal like Red Star Belgrade, Panathinaikos and AEK Athens, or Vasco da Gama overseas. The fact remains that, in the swirling 1990s, Kappa designs works of art in the form of kits, enriching them with such unique details that they are, even today, unmistakable and unforgettable.

Fútbol Club Barcelona 1996-97
Fußball Club St. Pauli 2001-02
Vintage Fc Barcelona commercial
Iranian National Team jersey x France ‘98
Jamaican National team jersey 2012
Stella Rossa di Belgrado 1997-98
Collezione Ambassador, Maradona
Real Betis Balompié 1998-99
AC Milan 1988-89
South African National team x Africa Cup '96
Unione Calcio Sampdoria 1988-89
Manchester City Football Club 1997-98
Jamaican National team 2012
FC Barcelona 1996-97

222 BAND, THE OMINI CHANGE FOOTBALL RULES

In this fascinating historical time, Kappa’s influence moves threads far beyond the on-field aesthetic, reaching out to touch and change institutional regulations. This is evidenced, for example, by a pitched battle fought off the green turf, that related to the 222 BANDA. The strip of repeating Omini, first applied on Team USA’s Olympic uniforms through an incredible partnership that began in 1981, also moved to the sleeves of some soccer jerseys: on all of those of Juventus and Barcelona.

UEFA, however, prohibits the Turin-based brand from continuing with this artistic and branding solution, appealing to a regulation that stipulates the use of a maximum area of 20 square centimeters for each sponsor on the jersey, space also related to sleeves and sides. The 222 BANDA is, in effect, abolished from football. But Kappa does not accept this limitation, and after a lengthy confrontation with UEFA, which lasted until 2004, manages to change the rules.

Europe’s largest football institution is assessed as guilty of abuse of power, and all sponsors are allowed to print their logos without restriction, as long as they remain within 10-centimeter bands (later reduced to 8) and do not exceed 20 square centimeters in size. The 222 BANDA once again changes the perception of sports. Kappa once again changes the perception of soccer.

Grêmio Foot-Ball 2000-01

THE KOMBAT REVOLUTION WEARS THE AZZURRI

The end of the 1990s marks another milestone in the relationship between the Kappa identity and the soccer universe. Starting in 1999, the Omini logo became fixed on the chest of the Azzurri: the ultimate expression of Italian football. To celebrate this tricolor symbiosis, Kappa also unlocks a new chapter of its myth, presenting a revolution in line with the new millennium: the Kombat jersey.

The Turin-based brand, which had seen Marco Boglione take over its reins in the previous decade, ushers in the 2000s with an unprecedented futuristic product capable of changing the outlook on sports performance. Kombat’s special materials guarantee, in fact, an elasticity that totally impacts the Beautiful Game, allowing, on the one hand, referees to better evaluate each restraint and, on the other, players to continue individual actions despite tactical fouls or frustrating contacts. Thanks to Kappa Labs, jerseys are no longer an ornament; now they can also determine the outcome of a match.

With the Kombat beginning to populate the fields of Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and international competitions, showing unprecedented fit and incisiveness on the athletic gesture, a new course is opened for the study and development of technical-sports materials. It opens wide, for all intents and purposes, the curtain on contemporary soccer, and on contemporary jerseys: functional symbols, capable of rhyming beauty, tradition and scientific advancement.

Nazionale italiana femminile
Roberto Baggio, l'Italia e Kappa
Kombat jersey
AS Roma 2002-03
Immagini d'archivio della Nazionale vestita Kappa
La tecnologia Kombat in azione
Momenti iconici del rapporto tra Kappa e il calcio

KAPPA FOOTBALL, AS CONTEMPORARY AS IT IS ICONIC

After the turning point of the Kombat, Kappa is branching out even further its influence on the vast football theater, maintaining, nurturing and expanding ties with clubs and national teams around the world, and going along with the osmotic process of bringing fashion catwalks and green lawns closer together.

Some examples of this latest, virtuous transition are the lasting collaboration with Leo Colacicco and LC23, brands with which the Omini have already developed several jerseys dedicated to Bari and the uniqueness of this sacred Apulian football city. It seems almost obvious, then, to mention Venezia and its work of twisting the fashion-inspired football landscape, as well as the fashion dynamics inspired by the football element. Leaving the national borders and moving to France, on the other hand, the link with the social soul of Paris, Red Star, certainly continues to fascinate, as does the virtuous intertwining with the emerging Dijon brand Drôle de Monsieur, entirely devoted to AS Monaco.

What is certain is that Kappa jerseys continue to narrate a glorious past and pander to a constantly changing present. A change that, probably, would not have been and would be so without the football vision of this Turin-based reality. A change that has lasted since as far back as 1978, and we can touch on it in the dazzling archive of the BasicGallery. In a jersey converge infinite symbols and meanings, we said. The symbol and meaning of Kappa, however, will always remain at the center of the football score. For its relevance. For its appeal. For its progress. The same progress that we will describe within the next focus, entirely devoted to the unlikely and legendary mingling of intent with Team USA in Los Angeles ’84 and Seoul ’88.

Aston Villa Football Club 2020-21
Torino Football Club 2014-15
SSC Napoli with Marcelo Burlon 2020-21 & Borussia Dortmund
SSC Bari with LC23 2021-22
Genoa Cricket and Football Club
Genoa Cricket and Football Club
Venezia Football Club