The kit sponsorship business on the global scale is a lucrative business as evidenced by the numerous multi-million dollar deals Nike and Adidas make with sports teams. In football lies the major commercial potential and top national teams are among the targeted group. In Africa, the top nations like Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana and South Africa all get kit sponsorship deals with the top three brands – Nike, Adidas and Puma. They offer commercial success and their chances of advancing further in international tournaments adds to the visibility of the brand.
For the middle placed country teams there are other established brands. Uhlsport, Macron and Airness from Europe, cater for one or two nations as they try to penetrate the market. But none of these brands dare risk to capture a middle or lowly placed teams with lucrative contracts. Business models and the challenging environment of football administration in Africa are among leading factors for such hesitation. This leaves a huge gap among countries like South Sudan, Liberia and others.
To close this gap, a few have risen up to the occasion. Such is AMS Clothing with its revolutionary designs and enterprising and daring founder, Luke Westcott. AMS stands for African Manufacturing Solutions and as Luke Westcott explains, it is a “Social enterprise that exists for the sole purpose of supporting football in Africa, and assisting in the process of nation-changing achievements to be made by the under-resourced national teams of Africa.”
Luke Westcott, the man behind the idea and execution of the vision is a 23 year old university student from Australia. He has been designing football shirts for fun from a young age and at 16 years old he was selling and buying football jerseys for collections on eBay. This led him to realize the gap in the market.
Talking to thesetpieces on how he came up with the inspiration for this company, Luke Westcott says, “I was constantly receiving messages from customers asking for the jerseys of obscure national teams – mostly from Africa, which I simply couldn’t source. Eventually I got the idea of creating my own brand so I could supply these teams myself and then cater to this fairly large market of collectors.”
Luke Westcott’s first entry point was in South Sudan facilitated by social media. Having formed the company he had aimed at reaching Somalia, Eritrea and South Sudan. He contacted a number of federations in May 2014 and got a response from South Sudan FA via Facebook. While the association was ready to work with him they needed the kits ready in South Sudan in three weeks. Westcott lived up to the huge challenge and that has led to a close partnership with the South Sudan federation ever since.
Westcott made the journey to deliver the first kit to South Africa and attended their match against Mozambique. He would later be invited for another match in the country and meet FIFA President Gianni Infantino who is now the proud owner of the AMS made South Sudanese shirt.
Another important partnership he has made was with Sierra Leone. AMS unique model and approach made it possible to supply shirts to the West African at a time when it was grappling with the Ebola epidemic and could not find a supplier for its kits. The patterned blue kit has proven to be a major commercial success for AMS and Westcott counts it as his favorite especially given the circumstances at the time.
Luke Westcott sees the major point of his company’s success being not just identifying a gap in the African market but also offering a unique product and opportunity for the local federations, the team and the fans world over. AMS provides a constant supply of high-quality apparel as well as an opportunity to raise much needed revenue through royalties from the sale of official apparel. It also offers the kits at prices many in the domestic market of the respective nations can afford. In return AMS is the official distributor of the country’s shirts on the international market.
Currently, AMS is working with 9 countries and is in advanced negotiations with other federations. To become the official sponsor of the kits. The bold and eye catching designs of the shirts set this start up manufacturer aside from the rest of the competition. At a time when national team shirts are going bland and the adding of a national element more of an afterthought, AMS Clothing provides interesting designs that speak of the countries heritage. This ability to customize shirts for African national teams and still release them for commercial sale has opened up opportunities for the company.
It has not been without challenges. Mr. Westcott admits he has had to contend with issues like merchandise disappearing without explanation and the customs and officials taking some of the kits to resell them on the black market. There is also the challenge of some of the national teams not playing often enough. He is quoted saying,
“Of course it’s never easy doing business with some of the world’s less developed countries. There are many considerations that need to be made that you wouldn’t even think about when dealing in more developed regions,”
One of the challenges he has faced that he seems to have expected was his involvement with the members of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (ConIFA) national teams. These include teams like Darfur United, Western Sahara and Zanzibar. While supplying other members of the confederation did not have a backlash, the association with Western Sahara brought criticism and hateful responses from those opposed to the idea of the region having a national team. Speaking on the issue, Luke Westcott said AMS is not in a position to participate in the political debate, but to support football and enable Western Sahara to be represented by its national team africasacountry.com reports.
Looking ahead, AMS Clothing has big plans and Luke Westcott is confident they can make AMS Clothing a fully African brand. The focus for the year going forward id penetrating the domestic markets of Tanzania and Ethiopia due to their potential and further develop the business model. AMS also aims to shift production from China to Africa within the next two years. Here are teams shirts for Ethiopia, Djibouti and Darfur
Going by his company’s progress in the East African region, the popularity of the designs and the business approach, Luke Westcott is slowly masterminding a revolution that could shake the giants of sports apparel.