First On The First: Team Gets Real

Indy Eleven held its “First on the First” event at the Rathskeller last night, and by all accounts (and the video evidence) it was a smashing success. A first player, new jerseys, a prime sponsor — and all in front of a packed, enthusiastic house. The Eleven front office continues to demonstrate skill and audacity in starting the team and building enthusiasm, and last night was another success along the path to launch.

Introducing the Jersey

I’ll comment in more depth later, but I wanted to hit the news highlights and round up a few posts about the night’s news. And also: a call to action!

Prime sponsor: Honda

The first announcement was scooped by the IBJ yesterday afternoon: Honda will be the first team sponsor, and the jersey will feature the Honda logo. The sponsorship is jointly held by Honda Manufacturing (in association with its plant in Greensburg) and the Central Indiana Honda Dealers. IBJ reports that the deal is worth $1 million over its three-year term, and it will include promotional ties, starting with the sale of jerseys at dealerships.

Obviously the money will be important to the team, but the intangibles of the sponsorship are a good fit too. Honda obviously has a strong local presence, but an international brand of this scope will bring credibility and attention to the team. For example, Sounder At Heart considers it “a better name on their chest than the majority of MLS teams.” It puts the Eleven on equal or better footing with the other NASL teams, and sets up a potential car crash derby with the San Antonio Scorpions (or DC United).

First Jersey: Diadora Takes the Checkered Flag

Indy Eleven Jerseys

Introducing the first jersey for the Eleven came with a couple different angles. The business side included the partnership with Diadora, an Italian company with a long soccer tradition. Again, it’s a big brand name, and one that will likely reflect well on the team. I do like the fact that the Eleven chose a smaller but well-known company; the team will likely be a bigger part of their brand than they ever could with someone like Nike or Adidas.

How about the designs? Watching via the live feed, my first reaction was muted, but that’s because the low-bandwidth feed hid all the details, including the subtle checker designs. Initiated by PCGD Studios, the design is a good mix of classic and innovative. The checkers are a good call; they offer an obvious racing connection, and provide some visual interest on an otherwise single-color jersey. The shoulder stripes are a nice look, and the hem contrast is a great touch for the fans (players wear the jersey tucked into the shorts, but fans will usually wear it loose).

But which is the home color? We know that white will be the away jersey, but the team is holding a poll to choose between red and blue as the home color. (The other will serve as a third jersey.) I suspect it’ll be pretty close; both the red and blue look good, and people will fall back to individual preference otherwise. But I’m going to vote for blue, for three reasons:

  • Most other Indy teams wear blue at home: Pacers, Colts, Fever.
  • Both the city and state flags are primarily dark blue.
  • It looks just a bit better than the red, especially the contrast with the crest.

Vote your conscience, but do it soon – the poll will be open for a week.

First Player: Kristian Nicht

Kristian Nicht (courtesy @SamKlemet)

Perhaps the biggest piece of news was the introduction of Kristian Nicht as the first player for the Indy Eleven. Obviously I was way off base in my speculation (shock!), but the fundamentals are as expected: an experienced goalkeeper, currently not under contract. Nicht is 31, and has come through an unusual path: second- and first-division Bundesliga teams, a trip through Norway, and then most recently the Rochester Rhinos of USL Pro. (Don’t be put off by Rochester; they’re an old and storied team and one of the most successful USL Pro clubs.) Nicht was Goalkeeper of the Year for the USL Pro in 2012 and by all signs is a very accomplished net-minder.

Nicht was obviously excited about the reception he was offered, and coach Sommer had glowing things to say about him. Welcome to the team, Kristian, and welcome to Indianapolis!

A Big Night

Obviously that’s a lot of news. It’s very exciting to see that the team continues to build with success. I’ve yet to see a misstep, and the buzz I hear from others around the city is surprising. Indy soccer fans are aware and generally engaged, and even those soccer newbies are aware of the team and generally following its development. I had some worries about First on the First when I heard the IMS would be scheduling a press conference about a new road-course race on the same day; I thought that news about another race in May would steal the limelight from the Indy Eleven announcements. But the news coverage was generally equal for both events. That’s quite interesting, and a real mark of John Koluder’s success in a conservative media market.

I’ll include links to more coverage below, and I’ll have more to say later, I’m sure. But for now, a hearty congratulations to the team and to Nicht! Well done, and we’re looking forward to more news soon!

Additional Coverage:

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