Tomorrow, Atlanta United is hosting what looks to be a very fun event to celebrate the unveiling of the updated primary kits. Unfortunately, several leaks that have emerged in recent days to weaken the element of surprise a bit. The unofficial photos show the kit will differ in several ways from last year’s inaugural version, with more red and black vertical stripes, red instead of gold stripes on the shoulders, and an MLS Cup star placed above the badge (at least on the authentic version).
A few things will remain the same. The Adidas brand and the Atlanta United badge won’t change a bit, nor will the logo of the official kit sponsor, American Family Insurance.
This got me thinking: out of all the big winners of the team’s first two seasons—Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, Darren Eales, the fans, American soccer who benefited from us inventing the game in the first place, Arthur Blank, etc., etc., etc.—American Family Insurance is perhaps the most under appreciated of the bunch.
I realized this the other day, and it got me thinking to a few years back to when we were all wondering which iconic Atlanta brand would be plastered across the inaugural Five Stripes kit. Would it be The Home Depot, the company that made Blank the coolest billionaire on the planet? What about Coca-Cola? Delta Air Lines? Hell, why not the Clermont Lounge?
I probably speak for others when I was underwhelmed when I learned an insurance company—one I’d never heard of—had bought the rights. In fact, I know I speak for others because I’ve overheard a fan at the team store say about the jersey, “I wish it didn’t have this logo on it.”
Not that this should upset the company in the slightest. The investment they made, in what Darren Eales described at the time as a “top-tier deal,” has paid off for them like gangbusters.
The 2017 inaugural jersey, which I can only assume is one which die-hard fans will own the rest of their lives, was a runaway sales success. Miguel Almiron held the top spot on the best-selling jersey list that year, with Josef Martinez in third. Rounding out the Top 25 were Tito Villalba (No. 15), Greg Garza (No. 18), and Yamil Asad (No. 24). Last year, Atlanta jerseys once again made up 20% of the Top 25 list, this time with Martinez (No. 3), Almiron (No. 5), and Villalba (No. 18) again among the most popular choices alongside newbies Ezequiel Barco (No. 10) and Darlington Nagbe (No. 15).
“Atlanta is critical to us in terms of our growth opportunity,” one of the AmFam execs said when the sponsorship was first announced. “It’s a very diverse town, representing lots of millennials, lots of ethnic diversity and cultural diversity, and we think it’s critical for us as we grow into the future to have a presence in a city like that.”
Well, as anyone who’s looked out onto tens of thousands of jersey-wearing fans at MBS can attest, saying the company has a presence here is an understatement. They’ve succeeded big time, even if some of us (namely, me) would still wish the team had gone with Waffle House.