A brand with a clear stand. At hummel we work as a team for teams in order to fulfil our mission: To become the most exciting teamsport brand in the world.
Hummel International A/S is one of the world's oldest sportswear designers and manufacturers. Viby, Denmark-based hummel (the company prefers the lower case) has focused traditionally on designing uniforms, footwear, and accessories for the team sports segments, particularly for soccer (football), handball, volleyball, ice hockey, and basketball teams. Much of hummel's team sports sales are promoted through its sponsorships with teams all over the world. The company's sponsorships range from the Aston Villa football club in England, to the Grassroots soccer team in the United States, and, in addition to teams throughout most of Western and Eastern Europe, include far-flung places such as Japan, Korea, Greenland, Armenia, South Africa, and even Tibet. Hummel supplements its teams sports sales with its leisurewear collection, which includes the labels Kick 'N' Rush, Express, h-line, and Frontrunner. Yet hummel's fastest-growing business is represented by its newest division, Hummel Fashion. Guided by Christian Stadil, son of the company's owner Thor Stadil (who controls hummel through his Thorinco holding company), Hummel Fashion has emerged as one of the mid-2000s hottest labels, sported by celebrities ranging from Jennifer Lopez and Priscilla Presley to Nicholas Cage. The strength of the somewhat exclusive hummel label--featuring its bumblebee logo--has helped the private company's sales grow to about $140 million in 2004.
Fitting Footballers in the 1920s
Although hummel later became synonymous with Danish sportswear, the hummel company was originally founded in Hamburg, Germany in 1923. The company's early success was founded on an important innovation that was to have a dramatic impact on the world soccer scene as well. Until the 1920s, soccer players wore flat shoes. But hummel added a number of studs, similar to the cleats found on baseball shoes, enabling players to achieve a greater grip on the playing field. Hummel's studded shoes caught on quickly, and before long cleats became standard fixtures on the world's soccer fields as well.
Hummel focused primarily on its soccer footwear for the next decades, flushing out that product with a limited range of sports uniforms and clothing. The company's clothing, like its footwear, was geared toward athletic performance, rather than fashion. In the 1950s, the company moved to Denmark. There, the company set up a factory in the town of Viby, near Aarhus.
The 1970s marked an important milestone for the company. Into the 1970s, professional sports remained relatively free of sponsorships, and sports sponsoring was certainly nowhere near the extremes reached by the early 2000s. This was especially so in the realm of professional soccer.
Hummel had by then come under the ownership of star Danish handball player Jorgen Vodsgaard, who, together with fellow handball player Max Nielsen, began approaching a number of Danish athletes with an offer to outfit them with hummel footwear and clothing. One of the first of the company's sponsorship deals was with start soccer player Hendrik Jensen, then with Real Madrid, in 1976. The following year, the company struck another important deal, this time with Danish football team Vejle Boldklub. Vodsgaard and Simonsen had met while both were competing for the Danish Olympics team at the 1972 Munich Games. Simonsen, a former Vejle Boldklub player who was named European Player of the Year in 1977, acted as a middleman for hummel in its negotiations with Vejle Boldklub. The sponsorship deal worked out for the company and the soccer team remained a central part of hummel's sponsorship roles into the next century.
Hummel rapidly expanded its range of sponsorships, and began outfitting players and teams throughout Denmark, Europe, and as far away as Japan. A key moment for the company came in 1979, when it was named the outfitter for the Danish national soccer team. The company retained that contract into the late 1990s.
Fashion Focus for the New Century
Hummel capitalized on its growing range of sponsorships by developing a strong catalog of sportswear and related apparel. The company's sales now extended beyond the athletic world to include the general consumer market. The company then began a push to expand into new international markets, entering the United States, among others.
During the 1980s, hummel--which had gained an advance in the sponsorship race on larger rivals such as Nike and Adidas--began broadening its athletic interests beyond its core soccer focus. The company began signing up sponsorships in a variety of sports, including golf, boxing, cross-country running, volleyball, handball, basketball, and ice hockey. Yet this effort spread the company too thin, and also served to dilute its brand image.
Meanwhile, competitors such as Nike, Reebok, Adidas, and others launched a veritable sponsoring frenzy, and by the beginning of the 1990s, prices on sponsorship deals had skyrocketed beyond tiny hummel's reach. By 1992, hummel was on the verge of bankruptcy. In that year, Thor Stadil, a powerful Danish investor with a number of companies under his control, bought up 100 percent control of hummel.
Stadil placed Soren Schriver in charge as hummel's CEO in 1993. Under Schriver, hummel scaled back its range of sponsorships and apparel. The company also exited a number of its international markets, including the United States. During the 1990s, hummel worked to revitalize its range, and narrowed its focus to just a handful of sports. Although soccer remained the company's most active market, it also retained sponsorship positions in handball, and to a lesser extent, in volleyball, basketball, and ice hockey.
A new turning point for the company came with the arrival of Christian Stadil, son of the company's owner. The younger Stadil had been studying law at the University of Aarhus in the late 1990s when he noticed a trend: that people were scouring the local thrift shops for old hummel fashions from the 1970s and 1980s. Stadil recognized similar trends in other markets, with retro fashions blooming in such capitals as Paris and London. Skipping classes, Stadil went to hummel's headquarters and began going through its old catalogs. By 1997, Stadil had convinced hummel to establish a new division, Hummel Fashion.
Stadil used a selection of the company's older designs as the basis for the launch of the company's first fashion-oriented clothing collection. The new collection was dubbed "Bumble Bee," from the company's long-held logo. From the start, Stadil sought to maintain the collection's exclusive aura, shunning advertising and restricting sales to a select range of boutiques. Word-of-mouth provided the division with sufficient momentum. By 1999, with the division's briskly building sales propelling the rest of hummel, Christian Stadil took over the direction of the company itself. By the early 2000s, hummel was growing by more than 50 percent per year.
A major component of the company's growth was the adoption of its fashions by a growing number of international celebrities. Adding to the company's cachet was its agreement to act as sponsor to the first Tibetan national soccer team in 2001--which had been turned down previously by Nike, Adidas, and Reebok. Hummel embraced the project, and profited from its political overtones, as a number of celebrities, including Richard Gere and U2's Bono began wearing the Tibetan team's tee-shirt in a gesture of solidarity.
With people like Jennifer Lopez, Priscilla Presley, Robbie Williams, and Jon Bon Jovi wearing the company's clothing, hummel's expansion into the international fashion market was considerably eased. Japan represented an important new market for the company. By 2002, the company had re-entered the United States as well. At first, hummel returned to the United States through an agreement with a licensee. By 2003, however, the company decided to take control of its U.S. expansion, setting up an American subsidiary and establishing its U.S. headquarters in Burlington, Vermont--which the company's U.S. CEO called the "Denmark of the United States." In 2004, the company opened its first U.S. showroom, in New York City.
Hummel Fashion's edgy designs began to rub off on the group's sportswear in the 2000s. In 2002, the Danish national soccer team chose hummel to design its uniforms for the 2002 World Cup, taking to the field in the company's retro styling. In the United States, the company launched a new line of women's soccer apparel, including pink cleats.
By the end of 2004, hummel's sales had soared to more than $140 million--compared with approximately $60 million just two years earlier. Nonetheless, hummel resisted investing in advertising, preferring to maintain its brand's exclusive appeal. At the same time, the company's growing profile enabled it to score a major sponsorship contract, with the United Kingdom's Aston Villa soccer club. Meanwhile, the company continued to seek out unusual sponsorship opportunities. In 2004, for example, the company became the sponsor of the first female athletes to participate as part of the Afghan Olympic team. The company's efforts for the women's sports segment earned it the Best Athletic Women Award from Sportswear International that same year. Under Christian Stadil, hummel definitely appeared to have caught a second wind for the new century.
Principal Subsidiaries: Hummel America Inc.; Hummel Austria; Hummel Denmark; Hummel España; Hummel Finland; Hummel France; Hummel Germany; Hummel Greece; Hummel Holland; Hummel Hungary; Hummel Iceland; Hummel International A/S; Hummel Italia; Hummel Japan; Hummel Korea B/D; Hummel Portugal; Hummel Russia; Hummel Switzerland; Hummel UK.
Principal Competitors: Nike Corporation; Adidas Salomon AG; Reebok Inc.; Kappa S.p.A.; Umbro Ltd.; New Balance Shoe Corporation.