The story behind the waistcoat
This World Cup has been a unique one: from the England team progressing through to the semi-finals for the first time in 28 years, to Gareth Southgate becoming a sartorial icon in what was coined his M&S lucky waistcoat.
We’ve been the Official Tailor to the England Football Team since 2007, and the suit is always popular with our customers, and generates news in the media. This year, manager Gareth Southgate smartly sported the waistcoat without a jacket on the side line of every game, which soon sparked headlines and increased conversations on social media. As the team progressed the waistcoat was worn by many fans as a symbol of support of Gareth and the team, not only across the nation, but also in Russia.
For a big campaign and partnership there’s always a mix of planned activity and being reactive to what happens. Our plan was to showcase style through our FA partnership as Official Tailor to the England Team, and to play into the World Cup news agenda. We also hoped to amplify the national excitement in support of the team.
With style and quality at the heart of the design, we worked closely with the FA in 2017 and created the pure-wool navy tailored fit three-piece suit, which was exclusively tailored to the team. Worn for M&S instore and online photography and the FA’s official team pictures pre-travel to Russia, the team images and news started landing from March across broadcast, news, style and sports media. Key coverage included behind the scenes shots from team fittings over double page spreads in the National press, and TV presenters trialling the outfit. We worked in partnership with the FA to release the news, and further the reach.
It was Gareth smartly sporting the waistcoat on the side lines that soon caught the attention of the media, with style comments increasing by the day. We wanted to get behind the team and their stylish manager and we knew our customers were with us on that. During the World Cup sales across all our waistcoats doubled, with styles starting from £19.50 across an array of styles and fits, we were pleased to offer a choice for everyone.
We worked quickly across the PR team to release stats and quotes on our customers buying into the waistcoat to media. The excitement and momentum around the waistcoat continued to build, with some calling the spike in sales the ‘Southgate effect’ - the waistcoat even got its own twitter account!
The key opportunity soon became the waistcoat and ensuring that fans knew that they could get their waistcoats at M&S was our priority. We named it the #luckywaistcoat - calling it out to our customers. Our marketing team placed ads reaching seven million people and took over our store windows with a celebratory image of Gareth on the side lines. We even had the giant external screens at Wembley displaying our adverts as shareholders arrived for our AGM. Online, visits to the waistcoat web page went up by four times.
Many media hailed Gareth a fashion icon and the best dressed manager of the World Cup. We dressed influencers, Editors, press, news and sports presenters in waistcoats in support of the team and put our Heads of Design and Buying live on the news outside our offices to communicate our excitement ahead of the forthcoming matches. One local radio station even flew a waistcoat flag from Warwick Castle!
Ahead of the semi-finals, guided by the excitement of the waistcoat and our customers, we worked at pace to support #waistcoatwednesday along with media, influencers and social. Colleagues rallied together to wear waistcoats in support of the team for social posts, and Percy Pig even got his own waistcoat made. We reached over six million people on social during the World Cup period.
Media coverage was wide reaching across global, national, regional, style, sports and broadcast news, with 65% of the UK population seeing the coverage an average of 19 times throughout the month of the World Cup, delivering style as the top message.
The Museum of London and the National Football Museum both requested waistcoats, to display this iconic moment in time, when the nation celebrated the England team and the waistcoat.
All in all it was an amazing summer of waistcoat style. We wish the team luck ahead of their next match on Saturday.