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PARIS After a disastrous 2010 World Cup, the French national soccer team made a symbolic break with the past this week, introducing a new uniform from a new sponsor, Nike. The outfit consists of an all blue jersey and white shorts; the third color of the French flag, red, is revealed when players turn over the ends of their shirtsleeves.

The new outfit is the centerpiece of Nike’s effort to recoup a more than 300 million euro ($400 million) investment, after it wrested the French soccer federation away from its longtime sponsor, Adidas. The deal, struck three years ago, before France’s soccer fortunes took a sharp turn for the worse, is by far the most lucrative sponsorship in the international game.

“What Nike has now is a huge challenge,” said Henri de La Grandville, senior researcher at Sportcal, a firm in Lausanne. “The first thing they have to do is to sell a lot of shirts.”

For Les Bleus, as the soccer team is known here, Nike chose a design that is radically different from the previous generation of jerseys. While Adidas stuck to a traditional soccer aesthetic, featuring the French red, white and blue and its own logo, the new jersey features a thin collar and a sleek, monochrome torso.

“I think you can wear it with jeans or a jacket,” said Laurent Blanc, the coach who replaced Raymond Domenech after the World Cup. Meanwhile, four French players, on a stage behind him, showed off the options for customizing their look by buttoning the collar up or leaving the neck open, for example, or by revealing the red lining of the sleeves.

Nike declined to say how many shirts it hoped to sell. Some European professional teams like Manchester United, which is sponsored by Nike, and Real Madrid, sponsored by Adidas, sell more than a million jerseys annually, analysts say.

With a few exceptions, like Brazil and England, which is sponsored by a Nike subsidiary, Umbro, national teams do not enjoy similarly extensive worldwide support. In 2006, for example, Adidas sold about 500,000 French jerseys.

Cyril du Cluzeau, Nike’s marketing director for France, said the goal was to broaden the French team’s international appeal, turning it into a European juggernaut like Brazil, or the New York Yankees. The new shirts and a range of other clothing, some of it with a logo incorporating the initials of the French soccer federation, will be sold in 900 stores in France and 400 more around the world.

Nike hopes to rehabilitate the image of the federation and the national team with a marketing campaign that celebrates the country’s creative flair.

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A television spot features French players, from unknowns to stars on the national team, dribbling, passing and shooting past hapless opponents. The ad, created by a Paris agency called Leg, is set to a passage from Edmond Rostand’s play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” in which Cyrano defeats the Viscount de Valvert in a duel while composing a poem on the spot. The words are recited by Oxmo Puccino, a French hip hop artist.

The ad closes with the tag line, “Vive le football libre,” or “Long live free soccer.”

Previous advertisements, from Adidas, emphasized team solidarity an approach that turned unintentionally ironic amid the wreckage of France’s World Cup campaign.

After a second place finish in the 2006 World Cup, France failed to move beyond the first round of the tournament last summer, when tension between the team and Mr. Domenech escalated into a strike by several players.

Shortly after the World Cup, two members of the team, Franck Ribéry and Karim Benzema, were placed under judicial investigation on suspicion of soliciting sex from a teenage prostitute.

For Nike, these woes were merely the latest reminders of the risks of sports sponsorship. Nike also sponsors the golfer Tiger Woods and stuck with him after accusations of a series of extramarital affairs.

Similarly, Nike is putting a brave face on its new relationship with the French soccer federation, which takes effect this year and is set to run through 2018. While Nike had previously signed Brazil, Portugal, the Netherlands and the United States, among other national teams, France is the biggest catch in Europe for the company’s flagship brand.

French players will wear the new uniforms for the first time when they face Brazil in a match on Feb. 9.

“I’ve already sweated in this shirt, and it felt very comfortable,” said Florent Malouda, a midfielder. “It’s very different from the old shirt. Now we hope to get the result that comes with it.”
bambas nike air max Nike Introduces New Look for French Soccer Team

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