Arena To Take Over As FINA Kit Partner Through 2019

Brand new deal for arena, sponsor to Daniel Gyurta and many more, including FINA [Gianmattia d'Alberto/LaPresse/arena]
Brand new deal for arena, sponsor to Daniel Gyurta and many more, including FINA [Gianmattia d'Alberto/LaPresse/arena]

Arena is to replace Speedo as an official sponsor and technical partner at all FINA’s major events from the World Short-Course Championships in Doha, Qatar, in December this year through to 2019. The partnership covers the world championships senior and junior and the world masters championships, which in Kazan next year will form part of the international federation’s plans to take its global showcase to new dimensions.

To be held in a football stadium that will extend the FINA offer to an “aquatic festival”, the Russian event next year will mark a sea change for the international fedaeration and arena. In what FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu described this week as “a challenge”, the 2015 Championships will not only incorporate the five Olympic disciplines of swimming, open water swimming, diving, synchronised swimming and water polo and the latest addition to the FINA stable, high diving, but will include roll the masters into the mainstream elite championship showcase.

It has not yet been decided how the masters section (which caters for those chasing fitness, fun and lifelong challenge among those aged between 25 and over, ascending in 5-year groups right through to the over 90s, but does not include anti-doping obligations) will be incorporated into events in Kazan. The likelihood of having masters swimming races held on the same days as the elite swimming is remote, given the logistics of water space, changing space and much else.

FINA’s top brass will be in Kazan next month to access plans and get closer to a decision on whether swimming events will be held open air, semi-covered or covered within the stadium.

For arena, long a partner to FINA short-course events, the latest deal is the latest coup in its ambitions to have the biggest presence in the elite swimwear market. Last year the company took over from Speedo as the main kit supplier for the USA national senior team, the world’s leading aquatic force. Americans, even national teamsters, can wear whatever suit brand they like under technical equipment terms.

The market is a keen one. Speedo remains the household-name brand in leading swimming nations such as the US and Australia: the term “Speedos” is still often used by folk on beach and in pool to describe their suit regardless of the brand they may be wearing. It remains a partner of USA Swimming on a number of levels, the trend in partnership and sponsorship away from exclusive deals and towards portfolios in which attaching brand names to assets is shared by a number of players in order to maximise revenue for the owner of the asset. Speedo, which after 10 years of support for FINA is keen to explore new ways of working with partners, including the international federation.

The shiny suits crisis, in which Speedo’s LZR Racer was endorsed by FINA until it became very clear that non-textile suits buoyed performance beyond the natural capacity of swimmers – and did so for some to a greater degree than for others, largely by changing angles of buoyancy – came to an end on January 1, 2010, when the bodysuit cut was banned along with non-textile materials.

That followed a 2009 season that took the use of polyurethane and other materials apt to turn humans into what Olympic and world champion of 2008 and 2009 Britta Steffen described as a “motorboat” and a “hovercraft” to fever pitch. Arena’s X-Glide was banned, reworked and let back in for a last hurrah at the Rome 2009 World Championships which saw a farcical 43 world records tumble in eight days. Steffen’s 50 and 100m freestyle world records are among standards that remain in place.

In some events, world records, particularly among women, have fallen but the majority of global standards remain yet in the grasp of the 2008-09 seasons, while the all-time world rankings are dominated yet by performances in shiny suits.

The crisis led to widespread suit testing and parameters being set for what is and what is not allowed in the make-up of race equipment. Before that arrived, suits were approved without proper tests, one oft-heard joke in the world of swimming that approval was given to  garments that did not float when thrown in a bucket of water  at FINA HQ.

Last year, arena fell foul of those parameters when a bonding process took a version of its Carbon-Pro range beyond the bounds of acceptability in measures that test for buoyancy, saturation and more. Arena recalled the suits and gave replacements to those affected. It was a reminder to all suit brands that they must sell their wares on a wave beyond the washing-powder cliches and tags of  ”fastest suit”, “faster than our last suit”  and so forth. It is the swimmer and the swim that is fast first and foremost.

In the fallout of 2008-09, Adidas took a step away from focus on elite swimming. Last year, the sporting goods giant renewed its commitment to the top-flight end of aquatics and is poised to make a comeback in the market with new ranges, products and partnerships. At the other end of the size spectrum, relatively young brands such as FINIS are making a play for market share.

Arena, meanwhile, intends to have its name associated with swimming worldwide. Capvis became arena’s majority shareholder late last year. Said Cristiano Portas, Arena CEO: “We have opened an exciting new chapter in the fantastic venture I and my management team started years ago. We are all enthusiastic about taking our products and our expertise to the next level. With all that has happened over the past few years, we feel that we are part of the vanguard of the sport, and we most certainly intend to stay there.”

Its partnership with FINA includes supplying clothes and equipment to officials, staff and volunteers at major events.

“We are naturally thrilled to have signed this major agreement with FINA, it’s truly an historic event for us,” said Portas. “Swimming is our life here at arena, and so to be even more closely involved with swimming’s premier events, as well as with the life of the sport’s global governing body makes us very proud, besides representing a real boost for the growth of the brand.”

That includes Descente, which manages the arena brand in Japan, South Korea, China and other countries in the Far East.

“This is a very important step forward in our successful relationship with Arena. This prestigious brand is widely recognised by some of the best athletes of the world as giving optimal conditions for memorable performances”, added FINA President Dr. Julio C. Maglione. “Being associated with our major competitions – FINA World Championships, FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) and FINA World Masters Championships – gives Arena a privileged stage to display the quality and excellence of their products.

After the world s/c champs in Doha, arena’s deal with FINA takes in:

  • 16th FINA World Championships and World Masters Championships, Kazan 2015;
  • 5th FINA World Junior Swimming Championships, Singapore 2015
  • 13th FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships, Windsor 2016;
  • 17th FINA World Championships and World Masters Championships, Guadalajara 2017;
  • 6th FINA World Junior Swimming Championships, Budapest 2017;
  • 14th FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships, 2018 (venue to be decided);
  • 18th FINA World Championships and World Masters Championships, Gwangju 2019; and
  • 7th FINA World Junior Swimming Championships, 2019 (venue to be decided).

“This agreement marks the next big step forward for our brand,” said Giuseppe Musciacchio, Arena’s General Manager of Brand Development. “We are now looking forward to Doha, our first World Championships as official sponsor of FINA. It’s exciting to see arena getting back to where it was long ago.”

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