Manchester City’s players wore modified training gear for their pre-match warm-up on Sunday following a High Court trademark infringement claim from fashion brand Superdry.
It emerged last week that City are being sued for damages over the use of the words Super Dry — a type of beer sold by one of their main sponsors, Asahi — on their training kit.
Some immediate implications have become apparent: up until Wednesday, January 3, the day Superdry’s claim was first reported by Law360, City’s players have worn bibs, sweatshirts and coats that bear the words ‘Asahi Super “Dry”’ in training and before matches.
Since the middle of last week, however, and including for the warm-up before their FA Cup match with Huddersfield Town on Sunday, the players’ clothing has been changed to ‘Asahi 0.0%’.
But with Superdry, the UK-based clothing brand, also seeking an injunction and financial damages, and even the option to ‘destroy’ City’s ‘Super “Dry”’-branded training gear, there will be more developments to come.
Here, The Athletic explains what we know so far and what could come next.
What does Superdry want and why?
Superdry alleged City “benefit unfairly” from “riding on the coattails of… well-known Superdry registrations” and argues its own brand could be “tarnished” by poor quality clothing items sold by City.
It also claims there is potential for its brand to be affected by “negative perceptions or preconceptions of Manchester City Football Club in the minds of e.g. supporters of rival football clubs” and says the club’s use of Super “Dry” branding could do “damage to the reputation of Superdry”.
Superdry submitted that “the appearance of the (training) kit is liable to deceive a substantial number of members of the UK public into believing that the (training) kit is clothing designed or sold by (Superdry)”.
As a result, the brand is seeking financial reparations from City. It is “presently unable to quantify the exact financial value of this claim”, according to the court documents, but intends those damages to “include… any unfair profits made by the infringer by reason of the infringement”.
The value of City’s training kit sponsorship with Asahi was not made available publicly, although it was reported the club’s previous partner, OKX, paid $20million (£18.5m) for the 2022-23 season and therefore speculated that the new agreement would fall in a similar bracket.
Superdry claims City have “profited very substantially” from the sponsorship deal related to the branding on the training kit and that they have “engaged in… infringing activities knowingly and/or with reasonable grounds for knowing that Superdry was a well-known clothing brand” that had not given its permission.
In November 2023, Asahi won an award from marketing agency The Drum for a campaign which set out, according to an article on The Drum’s website, to “elevate the status of the training kit and instil it with the same level of pride and symbolism as the first kit and away kit”.
Following acceptance of the award, Asahi said the campaign — which featured Kevin De Bruyne and John Stones, among others — was City’s most-engaged-with piece of sponsorship content of the season up until that point, achieving 19.87million views and 428,000 interactions across social media.
Superdry also asked the court to stop City from using or selling any items emblazoned with the phrase ‘Super “Dry”’ and for the club to transfer to the company all such items, or to “destroy or modify” them.
What else is in the court documents?
In documents submitted on December 15 — and seen by The Athletic — Superdry sets out to highlight its popularity as a brand, highlighting its 98 UK stores, several well-followed social media pages and awards won, as well as listing celebrities such as David Beckham, Neymar Jr and Kylie Jenner to have worn its clothing.
It also cited collaborations with rock bands Metallica, the Sex Pistols, Iron Maiden and Motley Crue.
City players Julian Alvarez, Jack Grealish, Erling Haaland, Kyle Walker and Oscar Bobb are also shown wearing training gear emblazoned with Asahi’s ‘Super “Dry”’ branding, specifically ‘Super “Dry” Asahi 0.0%’.
Superdry argues some of the photos demonstrate that not all of that wording will always be visible due to “various factors such as the viewing angle and the physical posture of the wearer”. One of the photos does show Haaland inadvertently covering much of the “Asahi” logo on his training shirt.
The brand also provides examples of its own clothing where the words ‘Super’ and ‘Dry’ are stacked on top of each other, as was the case on City’s Asahi clothing.
City already appear to have made changes to their training gear. Last Wednesday, the club posted a picture of women’s team striker Khadija Shaw in training wearing a half-zip bearing the words “Asahi 0.0%”. On Thursday, there were further images of the male players wearing clothing with the same branding.
2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣4️⃣ ready! 💯 pic.twitter.com/KvIWG33qFx
— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 3, 2024
The last time the ‘Super “Dry”’-branded items were publicly visible was during the Premier League match against Sheffield United on December 30.
City have not commented and it is not clear when they were made aware of the claim against them.
What are the implications for City?
City announced in July that beer brand Asahi Super “Dry” would feature on both the men’s and women’s training gear throughout 2023-24.
In a statement at the time, they said: “Since the start of the partnership, the Asahi Super Dry brand has been integrated across a number of different areas, including the rebrand of the Asahi Super Dry Tunnel Club and wider installation of cutting-edge technology throughout the Etihad Stadium to provide City fans with the unique Japanese super dry taste.”
This claim relates only to training apparel rather than City’s tunnel club hospitality offering.
Although the Super “Dry” brand itself belongs to Asahi — and is trademarked in relation to beer advertising rather than clothing — City find themselves in the middle of the claim because they own and were selling the product bearing the disputed wording.
There is no set date for any further court hearings and it is unknown when there will be a resolution.
Superdry, Asahi and Manchester City all declined to comment.
Blingy, binky and beside the point: How football mouth guards became fashion statements
(Top photos: Getty Images)