The European Men’s Handball Championships in Serbia are happening as I write this article. I watched Denmark lose to both Poland and Serbia, but smiled at the fact that at least both winning teams were sporting Danish uniforms. I recognized the distinctive chevron sleeve trim on the jerseys and shorts and knew instantly that they were hummel (spelled with lower case h) uniforms. This chevron trim and a stylized bumblebee are the company’s logo.
Not many people outside Denmark associate this with a Danish sportswear brand. However, if you are a soccer (football) or handball fan, you have no doubt been exposed to it. hummel International is a sportswear company and one of their specialties is designing uniforms, footwear and accessories for team sports. In fact, they have had enormous success providing team kits for a multitude of national and international handball and soccer teams.
However, the hummel brand wasn’t really established until after the mid-eighties, after sponsoring the Danish national soccer team who went on to win the 1986 World Cup. This exposure opened the door to England and clubs such as Southampton, Coventry and Aston Villa wanted to wear their designs. When they sponsored Real Madrid in 1988, the sale of hummel products also took off in southern Europe.
Since then, the range of sponsorships grew to include volleyball, basketball and ice hockey teams, although to a lesser extent. Sponsoring clubs and individual players from all over the world is a method they use to promote their team sports apparel and footwear. Rather than advertise, the company prefers to grow their profile using sponsorships – sometimes unusual ones, such as being the first to sponsor the Tibetan national soccer team in 2001. It was controversial but drew worldwide media attention.
Supporting great causes with their Company Karma initiatives is another way of generating PR. They support Save the Children and WWF amongst others. They have also helped build children’s soccer schools in Sierra Leone. During the current European Men’s Handball Championships, for every goal scored by one of the 53 players wearing their Rebel Karma shoes, children at these schools will receive a Karma Kit (10 shirts, a bag, a handball, a soccer ball and a pump). Already on the first day, 71 goals were scored. Today it is at 337 and counting. Incidentally, footwear, or rather soccer shoes, was the reason that the company was originally founded in Germany in 1923 by the Messmer brothers (it moved to Denmark in the 1950’s).
Albert Ludwig Messmer watched a soccer game where, because of the rain, the players were slipping and sliding on the field. Until the 1920’s, soccer shoes were flat. The company was born on his innovative idea to manufacture shoes with studs (similar to cleats on baseball shoes). Soon soccer shoes with cleats became the norm in the soccer world. Over time, they have entered the fashion market as well. Today, they also enjoy incredible success with their fashion oriented retro-styled lifestyle and fashion collections for men, women and children – most bearing the bumblebee logo.
By the way, the word hummel is German for bumblebee.