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"The Chance" & "The Nike Academy".

Nike Football has a really impressive digital marketing campaign, underpinned by their business level strategy, by not only promoting the products, but the people, places, and themes that create the perfect environment for the products to be used in. Anything visible via a digital medium is consistent in store and even on packaging. This creates the link between interests, to a purchase, to almost being an advocate for the sporting cause.

Such initiatives have the intrinsic link between that of the mass customer, dreaming of being a footballer, the products in use by great young players and established professionals, building credibility and desire, and showing the products in unfamiliar places thus making the product more accessible to the customers who may not play at a Stadium on a weekly basis. This really ignites the purchase journey. 

The impact Nike have on the industry is huge. Nike is shaping the football industry, and in focusing on the science of their product, the creativity of presentation of the product itself and the way they keep design consistent and regularly updated is admirable yet important for organisation with ever changing products. Something industries, such as consumer technology, should consider.

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The Nokia 3300 - A flash of brilliance or desperate final fling?

Built at a time where Nokia’s creativity just began to peak. I was immediately attracted to it as soon as I laid eyes upon it and I recall making the purchase about nine months after the release in 2003.

Its competitive advantage came from its focus on music. A large loudspeaker and the ability to accept MMC Cards, and a dedicated Music button.

My well loved and well used device has seen better days. The button interface beneath the casing is now unresponsive. The Black case is pocket warn, but it has served me very well.

I liked the fact you had dedicated Nokia software with the 3300 to sync music to it, and it is these little things that makes the usability far better is what it feels like to use iTunes with their supported devices.

I applaud the audacity of a company to change the rules on a flat phone. A horizontal phone? It’s fantastic in hindsight that we see the advantages of this in smart phones. But is asks a few questions, were Nokia being creative for the thrill of it or was it out of desperation?

For me (without sitting on the fence) it was a balance of both. I believe they were under pressure at that stage from competitors but pushing the boundaries on what a consumer see’s to be acceptable seemed to be a strong card to play. The problem is, if you continue to play the card it will most probably be trumped sooner or later. And recently, performance figures of Nokia show that they haven’t been successful in the industrial game of Blackjack.

Sales figures for the 3300 may have had small sales figures in comparison to the 3210 and 3310 - breakthroughs in their own right - but on a personal level, the brand equity build between me and Nokia were on the basis of this phone, and not my 3310.

Imagine a 3300 with 3G/4G, Wi-Fi, a good camera, and all the other bells and whistles. It would be a pretty nifty little device but unfortunately not as good as the current market offerings. It is a shame that the market has made transition to black plastic slabs; such simplicity has removed the environment to design creative looking phones.

And it is also a shame Nokia has lost their market share. Tech companies should not expect to rule the roost forever; all companies have had their peaks and troughs. But how can they grow again?

My personal idea is to be the first (and the best) in designing a smart, affordable device that can be used to help control the home. Lighting heating, TV, locked doors, feeding the dog, bringing the washing in, starting the oven, security. I feel it’s an idea this is not necessarily new, but it is one that has not been tackled effectively. Imagine the marketing possibilities one could develop to meet the need of the busy daily commuter, the silver surfer, or the forgetful student. I believe this is the ultimate in functionality and with current devices waxing lyrical about functionality - it could be a move that begins Nokia to be a big, big player once again. Okay, they are a big player, but one who can strike out Samsapples dominance.

Another avenue could be the IBM route. IF B2C just isn’t working for you, B2B may just be an equally exciting and profitable route. The problem is with B2C is the popularity factor is incredibly volatile and IBM haven’t done badly in their transition from B2C either. Something to think about…

But to be fair to Nokia, and the consumer, popularity has always grown from the alternative, the questionable ‘what if?’ If B2B only is deemed to be seen as a failure then creating a desire out of a quality product, an alternative - what the iPhone used to be - is the way to go. Then the opportunity for greater success may only be around the corner. Wireless charging and more market pull based applications that do not appear on the competitor will be the technique that creates the new benchmark which could see the tide rise in Nokia’s Dockyard once again.

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The Diet Takes A Morning Off…

All you can eat. A total classic. What do I say - look at the size of it!

And yes, I ate it all plus more! One little niggle I have with these ‘All you can eat’ places is that when you have finished, you are not offered more, and the Waiting staff ignore you. It is fair enough, but look at it this way, if they had offered me more food I may continue to feel positive between myself and the Establishment, and I may go again in future. It’s one little service delivery error that has affected their Six Sigma performance!

Black Pudding is questionable - smell okay, but tastes odd. There is ‘White pudding’ there to which is far nicer. Pretty much just sausage meat.

These things are good once in a blue moon and after a long run on a sandy beach I thought I deserved it!

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Adidas F30 SG - Red/White/Gold

Designed for those with a thinner foot. I couldn’t go ninety minutes in these due to my wide duck-like feet. But this doesn’t make it a bad boot. Ideally suited to the winger and out and out striker. But we warned, play well in these otherwise you will look silly - a hot red colour needs to be justified with red hot form.

A rare boot in the fact that the material is light yet due to the panel above the laces, you feel protected, and get a good connection with the ball. It’s an innovative shape as your laces are protected, so you can concentrate on the game rather than how your laces are flapping about. The whole structure of the tongue and stitching is just what you want to see in a boot. Good quality, and pretty stable.

Another great design element is how the material of the boot continues all the way underneath the boot, yet still having the feeling of a strong sole. Moving down to the bottom of the boot, the metal blades may restrict these to the pitch only and zero 3G surfaces, but the provide great stopping power and you may only slip in the truly boggy pitches.

They also don’t smell bad after use. Some Nike boots begin to rot after the first use due to the material used to make the boot, but these are fine. But, the inner heel area uses this plastic material that can create big old blisters. Suitable protection is recommended.

I was expecting these boots to split quickly from the upper and lower sections as they look fragile. But after some strong use, they appear to have no stress, fraying, or any splitting at all. Good job Adidas.

The boot also attempts to create a predator-like striking area with thin plastic striped areas. I couldn’t really feel the usefulness of this area in comparison to the predator itself or the rubber on the Under Armour Dominates.

A shame - Adidas has the opportunity to meet the needs of so many footballers if they made a wider boot. But they seemingly ignore them (us…me). Sales would change dramatically if they created a boot which had all the advantages of this boot, with the width of other boot brands.

Adidas make quality boots - and they last a long time - just make some for us larger foot’ed people!

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My blog is not purely about these boots - more will come soon but enjoy the ride and I promise to add new posts soon!

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Close, very close…

Umbro Speciali FG - White/Red/Blue

These boots are really very close to being great boots - but just one or two little Umbro issues let the boots down. Umbro have always made boots with a clinical feel to them, it is as if they assume everybody’s feet are totally round in the heel, and that ones toes are flat. This feels the same in ever Umbro boot I have. They may feel comfortable at first, but trying to wear them in is a tough slog.

I have owned these Speciali’s for three years, and have used them on and off as they’re Firm Ground boots. However, if you do not use them for a while they seem to gain a mind of their own, they stiffen up and they forget what feet were in them. What I’m saying is, they lose their shape very quickly, if you don’t use them for a period of time, you have to almost train these boots to fit your feet. Quiet frustrating when I’ve never had this issue with other boots - leather or synthetic.

The tongue on these boots is one of the most useful tongues on any boot. A big Velcro area means you can forget laces untying, and focus on the game. They also retain the 90’s retro look, which is refreshing with some boots in today’s market almost looking like they were designed by robots. But that’s what Umbro have been good at - classic boots - and new advanced looking boots are always secondary to other brands. Sorry Umbro but let’s smell the coffee. You know it in your heart!

Umbro however make some of the best Firm Ground studs in the business. Strong, flexible, and there are many studs. Perfect. Keep it up. The cheap leather inner lining in the heels however are awful.

Another bad point is the design on the inside of the boots. Puma has this problem to. They must spend weeks on the design of the outside of the boot, but around three minutes on the inside. It looks AWFUL. It provides nothing to the player in terms of added control, the stitching seems totally pointless, and there is no creativity, the inside of these shoes have been designed by a seventies architect.

But credit Umbro, they provide great protection to the foot in tackles, you can go in with confidence in these boots. But I will go on record to say I have broken my ankle in a match (on a perfect pitch) with another pair of Umbro’s to which there was no player within five yards of me. I purely blame the design of the bottom on the boot in particular - but it’s not this pair.

Okay, so make the material a bit more flexible, improve the design on the inside of the boots (the passing area), and you will have a great boot Umbro.

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A Winger’s Delight.

Puma V5.10 SG - White/Red/Black

Firstly, I have used these around have a dozen times, and in cleaning these for the blog - I am amazed how great they look. It’s great what a little washing powder and a bit of white trainer polish can do.

I will be have no bias with these boots. My feet are a little wider than the average foot and these are a little thin. Great for some but not for me.

Puma - the thin style studs are not great, I played on a sticky pitch (used to be boggy, and drying!) and you could get out of the mud quickly, and begin to accelerate. But in terms of agility, stopping power, not so great. I will be first to say I am not a fan of the six stud setup, so a few more (perhaps a hybrid of SG and FG boots) would retain the acceleration but help with sharper movement.

There are some boots that I fear playing in. Hopefully I will clean up my Nike Rio’s soon, and will go in more detail about this, but a 50/50 challenge in these feel risky, there’s just not enough protection on the main ridge of the foot. Its quite worrying as a fear about the safety of my delicate toes! A boot that could probably benefit from a Predator-like tongue with elastic.

But give Puma credit, they’re nice and light, the outer side of the boot looks great - a classic Puma boot. The inside looks like a dog’s dinner though, more work here required.

I don’t know where Puma bought these laces, but they’re thin, almost straw like - terribly cheap. Replace these as soon as you get them. 

Inner heels are material based (yes!) so no blister trouble here. Obviously they’re the cheaper versions of the V1.somethings, V3.somethings but give them credit, the you get a good feel of the ball, even with the strange shape of the toe that Puma seem to insist of placing on boots of this era. It’s a simple diversification free boot. Football beginners. Start your engines here.

 

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The Sub’s Bench

These three boots I would call my Auxiliary boots. All in their way not as nice as the Under Armour Dominates but all have their own character.

Puma PowerCat 3.12 SG - White/Blue/Gold

When I first bought these boots I thought they would be brilliant - perhaps the best pair I owned. They were light, wide, comfortable, and strong. But the real analysis and test is from use. Such a disappointment.

Firstly, they seem to sit on the foot a little lower than any other boot I have worn. Sometimes, it almost feel like you’re wearing sandals. You feet feel terribly exposed and any big connections with the ball lack the control one feels in other boots. Secondly, they are a size nine. Every one of my boots is. But they feel like an eight-and-a-half which is frustrating as a consumer wants size consistency. There is around 1cm’s different between these and both the Nike boots (Right) and the Under Armour’s from the previous post. Thirdly, they suffer from separation in the inner heel, a real disappointment and the sign of a cheap boot. I cannot get over the fact that so many boots - even expensive ones fall apart the moment you start to give them any use apart from simply looking at them - and these are a victim of such poor quality.

On the positive side, they look good when you wear them for the first few games - but - the first few games?? I want a pair of boots to last a whole season at least. They’re Soft Ground boots, so they would not even be used all year but they feel like they’ve been around for twice as long as the Under Armour’s when they have probably been here for about a quarter of the time…

They do look good - and that why I bought them. But if you want to play football in them I simply suggest you don’t. Perhaps it’s me, perhaps I purchased the wrong Puma’s, but there is something Puma need to look at in terms of longevity - if all the other brands can do it then so should Puma.

Lotto Puntoflex FG - White/Blue
Firm Ground boots, so have only had the chance to play with them on a Rubber Crumb pitch. The leather is the crummy synthetic stuff, so it will feel like you’re playing football with your feet in a pair of drainpipes. The laces/strike zone is good - if you connect it will ping straight, but their pointy-brogue nature means any type of pinpoint cross or outside boot pass is inconsistent. And I say that purely as an (slightly above) average footballer.

The design is simple, nice and refreshing for the classic Italian wannabe striker, but they’re not much kop. The FG studs on the bottom are great though - a wide panoply of studs that you would love to see on other boots when they only have the six-stud setup. 

It’s clear I prefer material inner heels but the fact that they have the synthetic leather to ‘protect’ your feet means you will get blisters. Ahh blisters. That reminds me…

Nike Air Zoom Total 90 - Grey/Silver

A personal message to Nike. If you make a boot that not only creates a blister - but a rips off flesh through a sock and an ankle strap - don’t make them like this.

They actually have the best feel in terms of a long pass out of any boot I own. Crosses are effortless, as they have a great round shape to the front of the boot.

I played a fantastic match in these, but did feel a pain. After the game (sorry to be graphic) but the flesh, not just skin, fell away from my foot. Nike I love your boots, I love NikeTown, and all of your stuff - but oh dear - these are a disaster.

Okay - good points - they look like a throwback to boots they wore when Football was in black and white, I felt like Jimmy Greaves or somebody in them, and the grip from the studs are great even in the boggiest mud baths. They also fit higher up the foot, great in comparison to the Puma’s. But those heels Nike, those heels! Goodness me. I have played football since a young lad so I know what I am talking about - no matter what you try, you will lose patience with these once you have got through your fifth or sixth pair of feet. There is no point in designing a cool boot, with all the bells and whistles if you cannot meet Maslow’s basic needs. Let me wear them without crying after, please!

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The trainers that changed my life.

Eighteen months ago today, I was 97kg (Just over 15st). I was podgy, sad, and a flabby shadow of my former self. My cousin described me as a barrel, and I hated ones ‘man boobs’. A number of personal reasons lead to the ballooning but I knew I had to change. Today I stand on the scales at 82kg (13st!) I’m around 176cm high, so I feel svelte and acceptable.

One cannot understand the feeling of such a feat unless you have actually experienced it, the bad moments makes those moments of success that much sweeter. Today I feel so confident - a feeling that drives happiness. Im jogging up Maslow’s Mountain with a rate of knots!

As well as reducing bread consumption, I feel my exercise regime played its part. Indoor Football, Outdoor Football, and Jogging were the two means of losing the flab. So I wanted to share what tools I used to get where I am.

Correct footwear for fitness is vital for a number of reasons. Comfort is key, but in terms of Football/Soccer, feel on the ball, and longevity are also important. So here’s what I think of my trio of heroes.

Under Armour Dominate Pro SG - Cream/Orange/Grey
Waterproof Leather Football Boots. What an innovation. I was a little wary at first, as I had never owned a pair from this brand. But immediately, the way they fitted to the foot was something I had never experienced in a football boot at all. Some boots, such as Nike Air Zoom Total 90’s take months of blisters and effort to make the boot feel like they’re ready for your feet. But these beauties break these rules. If you want to create a great football boot, manufacturers, it’s time to benchmark the Dominate.

The looping shape of the leather over the striking zone of the boot is great for long ball passes; you can really feel where you hit the ball - which in turn can improve your technique for the next kick, and the next kick.

The Grey area on the toe is the boot is also rubber. The old fashioned Adidas Predator re-born. Curl, backspin, outside of the boot. You name it that area can handle it.

If there are any negatives, the boot does tend to smell as bad as Nike boots - which is awful. But if kept in good condition, like mine, that is only a minimal murmur. Also the price - when new these are £60+. Perhaps a little bit too much in my opinion but they will last a long time.

Under Armour should re-release these, as their current catalogue looks like they were invented by the Characters from Sesame Street.

Nike Tiempo Natural TF - Blue/White
The Suede tip is rather confusing at first. However, if you purchase the ‘Rio’ version old the Tiempo you will see why it’s really there. The Rio’s cheaper leather would split from the rubber sole, so it’s worth paying a tenner more for the better boot - especially when they last around three times longer. These Astros have lasted for around a year so far and they still look great and the wear on the sole is only around half way gone. For Indoor Football, that Suede it helps with your touch with the Tennis Ball-like Indoor Ball - but the real element of quality is the soft leather, as opposed to the Rio’s synthetic leather.

The heel, with its materialised inner lining prevents all rubbing, and a strategic lacing system (keeping all laces flat) is what makes control and accuracy far greater as you can really feel the ball upon contact, be it a hard strike or a quick flick.

At first I was disappointed Nike had lost the tongue (from the equivalent boot the previous season) but once removed, and laces tidied, the clarity of the striking zone is greater, there is also less ‘boot flop’. I don’t know how horrible the feeling is of tongues and laces swaying about but these boots don’t seem to have any.

I tried to jog in these at first but that is a huge mistake. When jogging buy running trainers. Tiempos like this have no give in them and I feel you could damage your feet. Keep these on the Pitch. 

All in all a great boot for all - especially those with wide feet like mine.

New Balance 1060 Abzorb FL - White/Blue
Such a light Trainer. The design is a bit old hat, the rubber toe shows its age. But another long lasting trainer. I’ve had these since 2011, and I must have run hundreds upon hundreds of miles in these.

The soft rubber that absorbs impact retains its marsh mallow like feel, and the delicate netting throughout the trainer is damage free even though it has taken a lot of use. A bit chilly when running in winter, it feels like you’re running in a fridge at first. But in the summer, simply amazing. Air Conditioned feet. And I must say, no bad smell at all. Take note Under Armour.

These were around £20 when I bought them - but my Father has a £100+ pair, and mine are in better condition than his - and due to his age he runs a similar but shorter route to my regular route.

The wavy laces keep your knots from untying, which is useful.

But

It’s not just the Footwear that makes an impact - the music you listen to while jogging, and the headphones that you use also affect your enjoyment of the run. Hopefully soon I will go into my running routine.

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So after Watching Manchester Red Socks losing to Royal (Not as good as Atletico) Madrid, it reminded me of my big games I watched in the Summer.

The video clip is of me and a very very lovely special friend of mine - and it was my first ever trip to Wembley. Korea v Gabon. 0-0. But I trip I will never ever forget. Walking into the Bobby Moore Entrance (nothing says ‘legend’ more than having an entrance named after you) and being security checked, we were pointed in the direction of some heavenly looking escalators which pointed away from the rest of the mass crowd getting ready to watch the game begin. ‘Your door is the ninth on the right.’ If you hear these words at Wembley in the future - lucky you.

Timidly, we opened the ninth door to see a Leather Sofa, a TV on the wall, and a glass wall. The Olympic Ticket lottery had only given us a Suite. Steven Davey had arrived in Wembley Stadium.

The first time you embrace the size, colour, and atmosphere of Wembley is similar to when you drink too much lemonade. I was almost rendered speechless. What a stadium. Looks okay on the TV but in reality - in one’s own eyes is amazing. And in all of the London 2012 get-up makes you proud to be there and be a Brit.

So we take our seats. Anthem, Kick off. And then - the Wave…..