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A BIG DECISION

FC St. Pauli are breaking new ground by moving the production of the club’s kit and sport collection in-house. So how did the decision come about and what are the advantages for the club? We talked to departmental heads Bernd von Geldern and Martin Drust about this major project.

Hello, Bernd. What made you decide to produce the 2021/22 jersey and sport collection in-house?

Von Geldern: "It's a matter for the whole club, not just the merchandise department. We’ve taken a big decision, inspired by the will of the 2016 general meeting that we should produce fairly and sustainably. We wanted to approach the topic seriously and founded a sustainability working group that included an expert in Zarr, who's been working on the topic of sustainability in our merchandise department since 2019. We worked on the project for 18 months, which was a long but necessary lead time, to determine whether it was feasible. We're now sure we'll be launching the most sustainable teamsport collection in the world."

Hi Martin! Just this once so everyone knows, what does DIIY mean? 

Drust: "I've been asked that many times. The core of FC St. Pauli is DIY - do it yourself - and that’s actually the core idea behind this brand. Instead of constantly moaning that a kit supplier isn't good enough or can't equip us sustainably enough, it's about saying we'll do it ourselves if we can't get it on the market. Unfortunately, you can't trademark DIY, so we came up with the idea of simply adding an "I". In the long version, it actually means "Do it, improve yourself", but we won't use that. Instead, we're assuming that DIIY will enter into everyday language, so people understand we have the courage to take this matter into our own hands."

If you want something doing, you have to do it yourself, and that includes the shirts now. Why does this DIY thing go so well with us as a club?  

Drust: "It is indeed a good fit because FC St. Pauli is a club of doers. What we have came about because people got involved and were passionate about something, that's the whole idea of this club. In marketing, we try to maintain a state of affairs where people feel challenged to be creative. That's why it's a huge boost for the FC St. Pauli brand because it reinforces that idea and translates it into action. It's not simply about being against things, but about being an activist. In this respect, it's an important building block in the development of FC St. Pauli."

From a business point of view, moving to in-house production involves taking a risk, of course. What was the decision-making process in this respect?

Von Geldern: "We've taken a confident and powerful business decision as a club. In times of the coronavirus, you start to waver a little, of course. Do you take the certain money of a kit supplier or do you take a risk? We decided to approach the issue as a community and as a collaborative action involving our employees, members, fans and stakeholders. We're going with advance sales, which reduces the business risk. It'll be a huge burden for our warehouse and online shop, of course, but we're approaching it with immense joy and optimism."

The decision has been taken mid-season, which is rather unusual.

Von Geldern: "Everything about the project is unusual, including launching it mid-season and starting sales in advance. Unusual times call for unusual means. It's a clear commercial signal. We want to create value and to do that we have to take an unusual route. We agree with the presidential and supervisory boards that we don't simply want to sit and wait for the pandemic to end at some point. We don't want to lie on our backs like a crab, we want to kick back strongly. We want to get on with things and do all we can to emerge from this crisis stronger than when we went in."

Besides the independence aspect, the shirt and the whole idea is all about sustainability.

Drust: "FC St. Pauli are seen as rebels at the moment. We want to develop that so we're seen as activists, moving away from being against something to being for something. This changed world includes the issue of sustainability, of course, which is much more than just ecological sustainability. It's also about social sustainability, transparency and fairness, which are all things that go very well with FC St. Pauli. That's why I believe it's an important step for FC St. Pauli, and we’ll continue to work on it. It's not a marketing thing someone has come up with. We all have to live alongside each other in a more resource-efficient way and so it's only natural we're developing in this direction."

Besides the shirt, we'll also be producing our teamsport collection in-house, all under the key aspect of sustainability. Is that financially viable?  

Von Geldern: "We aren't saying it'll be the most sustainable jersey. It'll be the most sustainable teamsport collection, with all 55 products. We'll make everything ourselves, from the socks to the rain jackets. We've already shown it can be done without putting prices up if you do things intelligently when we switched the production of the skull and crossbone shirts to Fairtrade and GOTS. We changed the production sites and fine-tuned other things. We aren't going to use it as an excuse to make everything more expensive. There will be costs involved, but that's our position on the issue. That's also why we hope there'll be imitators who understand that it's not just a football shirt, it's a statement."

What are the advantages of not having to work with a major partner?  

Drust: "You can’t please everybody when it comes to the equipment supplier. With Under Armour, we experienced first hand how it can generate lots of reactions. It has to be said that they were very good partners for us because they made a very good product and we were able to influence the design of the products. That can't be taken for granted. We hope the new brand will give us even more independence and more opportunities. We believe we'll be able to do lots of interesting things in the future that will allow even more participation. With this in mind, to do things ourselves now is a really good decision and the correct one."

 

Photo: FC St. Pauli

 

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