Southampton FC recently launched three unique NFTs inspired by its kit design, created by London-based brand and experience design studio ShopTalk/DEPT in collaboration with Formidable and Southampton FC.
The NFT kit designs suggest a new, alternative way that NFTs can offer value, focusing on brand awareness and fan connection rather than novelty, and celebrate the details of kit design itself.
To discover more about the launch, which coincided with the Premier League season kicking off, and the ideas behind this very unique branding task, we spoke to ShopTalk/DEPT Senior Designer, David Gibson.
What was the brief for the brand?
Southampton FC wanted to create three unique NFTs that would be collectable items for their fans. The NFTs we created suggest a new, alternative way that NFTs can offer value, and are inspired by the club’s kit design, making Saints the first-ever Premier League club to launch an NFT of the original kit design sketches.
How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?
It was exciting as NFTs are a new field for us and we’re all massive football fans – we were excited about the creative possibilities, so we had lots of ideas! It quickly became clear that we wanted to balance three aspects as we developed the project. Firstly, delving into the world of NFTs to discover what’s possible, successful and what the trends are.
Secondly, we wanted to keep football fans at the heart – thinking about collectable stickers, memorabilia, cards, and badges, something that seems to fit well with the idea of collectable NFTs. Thirdly we wanted to celebrate the story of the kit itself – this year inspired by key elements of the city.
From this we started to develop 6 mood boards and early concept storyboards with different starting points (e.g. collectable cards, or a creative interpretation of a traditional signed and framed kit).
Describe the purpose of the brand and its target audience
Southampton’s NFT strategy focuses on brand awareness and fan connection rather than novelty. Each of the three NFT kits on auction is wholly unique, and the three fans who are lucky enough to snag one will also a receive an IRL limited-edition version of the kit – connecting the NFT to a real world item.
By connecting the NFT kit to a real one, it creates a necessary bridge between digital investment and a meaningful physical item. It’s a bold move that signals an evolution in how football can bring real value to fans using emerging technology.
What was your thinking behind the branding solution?
We wanted to create an NFT design that showcased and celebrated the kit design itself, focusing in on key details and bringing them to the fore. Using the language of collectable cards, but with the creative possibilities of 3D, we created an exploded interpretation of a collectable football card – with different elements coming to life in 3D.
This allowed us to showcase the original kit design on one side, whilst creating a 3D version on the other with different highlighted details such as the pattern etched into the card, or the glowing chevrons.
Did you learn anything new during the project?
We got the chance to explore CGI in more depth – learning how the lighting, textures and movement brought a flat design to life was exciting and challenging.
What was the biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was probably getting our heads around the world of NFTs and making sure that we came up with an idea that truly connected with fans but was also appealing to NFT collectors – it’s a fast moving, new world so we had to get to grips with it quickly. Thankfully one of our team has started collecting Sports NFTs so we were able to quickly get insights, and as football fans we felt well-placed to tap into football culture.
What kit/tools/software were used to create it?
A lot of different things initially. Keynote was useful as you can play video content and work collaborate remotely (we’re hybrid at ShopTalk). Then the usual Illustrator/Photoshop for the flat designs and storyboards before working in Cinema 4D for the final outcome.
What details are you most proud of any why?
We’re proud of the pattern texture in the cards – inspired by the unique patterns in each of the kits. It translated to 3D better than we expected and helped to bring the story of each kit to life. It’s always nice when the process surprises you.
What visual influences fueled your solution?
We were inspired by the world of NFTs which have developed their own visual languages and trends (lots of 3D textures, lighting, and effects). We wanted to tap into this world, and it also gave us the chance to push the brief and create a solution that was more than just the kit designs – showing the 3D version as well as the flat and pulling out the important details like the patterns and chevrons.
What do you hope it achieves for the brand?
Southampton’s approach to their NFTs is a savvy departure from footballs’ shady history with the trend, commonly centered on investment and profit for the club rather than for fans. When done right, NFTs are brilliant opportunities to build brand equity through thoughtful, customer-centered strategies, and build meaningful connections with fans.
Southampton FC strike the right balance here, pushing the boundaries to create a new way for fans to interact with the club – the NFTs celebrating that being bold and brave is what the kit design is all about.
What would you do differently if you could do it over again?
CGI is a relatively new area for us. We learnt loads about how lighting and textures can make a huge impact – and not be entirely predictable. We’re happy with the result – so I’m not sure we’d do anything differently this time, but I’d like to think we’d be able to push the CGI work even further next time we work on a project like this.
We were thrilled to work in an area we are all so passionate about, and in the future, we’d love to take on the whole brand and digital experience for a football club. There’s so much potential for creativity as technology changes and develops, to create new and meaningful experiences for fans – and we’d love to be a part of it.