Subbuteo Tribute Website.
Promotional and Cross-Selling.
The Promotional items are those given away by Subbuteo Sports Games Ltd, to promote the game or its tournaments.
Cross-Selling covers Subbuteo products that feature advertising of other companies products, or other companies products that advertise or feature Subbuteo. This later range of products has exploded in the 21st Century, and so items from this century that just feature the Subbuteo branding have their own page. This page covers the Lledo model vehicles, which were produced in the classic Subbuteo era, and then products that are games in their own right - whether trying to recreate Subbuteo electronically, or to produce a different type of indoor football.
Subbuteo Promotional Items.
A Subbuteo Freebie.
This is the Subbuteo Ken Baily mascot figure usually found in C114. However, according to this item's blurb on ebay, he was given away free as a marketing device to people who were going to see this England vs Portugal Match at Wembley in 1969.
Munich Souvenir Programme and Medal - June 1974
The Munich World Series was obviously a huge event in Subbuteo history, which was celebrated in the huge Munich box set, and the lyrics to the Subbuteo World Cup song. Illustrated are the souvenir programme of the event and a medal. The latter has the falcon crest and "World Championship Munich 1974" embossed on the back. This was possibly a commemorative medal, rather than something a player might have won. Why? Because this particular one belonged to a chap named Derek Hitchcock, a talented player in the 1970s, who was given it as a memento for refereeing a couple of games in the Subbuteo Home Internationals around 1974-75. Rather a nice souvenir I thought, even if it was a bit inappropriate to the event he attended!
There are probably lots of promotional items that were produced alongside the official tournaments of Subbuteo's golden age. If anyone has any more, please feel free to send me a picture or two.
Cross selling of Products.
The marketing man's dream. Using one successful product to sell another one.
Part One. Subbuteo Products advertising other companies and products.
Roy of the Rovers.
Roy of the Rovers was a children's comic where all the strips had a football theme. Chief among these was the story of Roy Race himself, who played for a team called Melchester Rovers. This successful strip had started in Tiger magazine in the 1950s, but gained its own magazine in 1976. The 1970s comic also featured a strip with a Subbuteo playing boy, entitled "Mike's Mini-men". Mike played with a Subbuteo team in the Melchester strip, with a Roy Race figure playing up front. In a case of life imitating art, Subbuteo released a Melchester kit on three occasions. All were sold through the comic as mail-aways in 1980-81, 1984 and 1994. The first of these was Melchester's classic 1970s kit (red with one yellow vertical stripe). I'm sure I remember this being advertised with a heavyweight figure in the comic, but the most common version is the lightweight shown above. The kit was sold in the 1980 box style (i.e. the box where one player shows through a window). The box was named, but not numbered.
The 1984 version was solely a machine printed lightweight, and wore the hooped "Gola" strip Rovers had switched to at that time. In the comic, the middle hoop originally featured a Gola advert, but this was not reproduced on the toy. (there were questions asked about this type of advertising in a children's comic, and the Gola chest logo was dropped after one season). This set did not appear in the catalogues of the time (being sold only through the comic), but it was given a number in the range - 568. This version featured a blond Roy, which I'm sure is the only blond Subbuteo figure produced.
The third kit produced was sold in 1994 and did appear on the colour charts of the time as reference 806. However, it was still a comic mail-away. By this time Melchester Rovers were playing in red and yellow stripes (the result of a reader competition). Sadly, the comic was on its final run at this point, having switched to a monthly production. This re-launched Roy of the Rovers magazine featured the adventures of Roy's son (Roy Jnr. luckily enough - known as Rocky). There was an important black co-star in this more edgy strip named Paul Delroy Ntende - Heroically "Delroy of the Rovers"! Pleasingly, reference 806 was one of Subbuteo's new "mixed race" teams, so I've illustrated it above with a Delroy replica.
This team does appear in the comic with a Subbuteo chest logo, and it is reproduced on the real thing. Very smart.
The Farm team.
This team was produced as a promotional item for the pop group "The Farm" in the early 1990s. It came in the standard team box of the era, with simply "The Farm" on the label with no reference number or other details. It may well have been another mail-away offer in Roy of the Rovers magazine. The kit is the one used for the French national team at that time (ref 733) with the blue replaced by green. They were available as a magazine mail-away.
Tango Barmy team.
A marketing campaign with Tango soft drinks, these players on Hasbro bases were produced in the late 1990s. This set was available as both single players, and as a set. The single players were part of a competition, and I assume they were given away with Tango drinks. The full Barmy Army team was another magazine mail-away, but were also given out at promotional events.
Gola are a famous old English brand of football boots and sportswear. The 568 version of Melchester Rovers (shown above) was actually a Gola kit, and in the Roy of the Rovers comic of that time the yellow hoop had the Gola logo on it. This wasn't reproduced on the Subbuteo version, but two promotional Subbuteo "Gola" teams have been produced - a green version (as illustrated) and a red version. Gola is written across the belly of the figure - it's a bit low for a chest advert. Thanks to Fillipo who scanned the green player for me, and Cristian Perucci for the picture of his red Gola team.
These teams were actually the prototypes produced for a proposed Gola Soccer Sixes (six a side) set from the late 1980s, which was sadly never put into production. Instead, like many quirky Subbuteo teams, the players were used up in standard club editions.
Renault Trucks - AC Milan Team.
With this promotional link-up, it wasn't the team that was special, it was the box. The team was a standard late version reference 57 AC milan (white socks and gate pattern stripes). The box however had a Renault trucks sleeve, and the name and logo were even printed on the polystyrene inner. As with the Tango team, I'm not really sure how these sides were distributed. Did you have to buy a truck?
Sky Sports Premier League Promotional 1995.
September 2024: This is a fantastic little promotional item that I was unaware of. It was sent in by Guy Rickard who tells us that his brother was given it when he worked on the Sports desk at the Sun newspaper. The set was produced to advertise the Sky Sports Christmas schedule for 1995-96. There were seven games shown live over the Christmas period that year (24th Dec - Jan 2nd) featuring eleven different clubs. What better way to promote this than to use Subbuteo? Especially when the Subbuteo Premier League range had been freshly launched that season.
The promotional set came in the standard Waddingtons Premier League team box, and featured a single player from each of the teams featured in the schedule. Well, actually you only have ten outfield players of course, so the final team in the series, which was Chelsea, missed out (or perhaps the goalkeeper represents them). The box has its own sticker where the team name usually is, and the backing sheet says "Sky's Ultimate Christmas Tree Formation" as well as having the schedule printed between adverts for the Ford Escort, and Sky Sports.
A big thank you to Guy Rickard for sending in the pictures of this item.
We've no idea how many were issued within the Sky group.
I wonder whether it was "officially" produced by Waddingtons, or whether the Sky marketing department simply bought a bunch of teams, put a sticker over the team name on the box, and then just swapped all the players about!
Budweiser Bar Football kits.
These sets were produced for a 2002 World Cup promotion, and were designed to be used in pubs during the aforementioned competition. Each pack consisted of a rather nice half sized pitch, one goal, one "Budweiser" branded ball, and a six a side team in a Budweiser kit - in either red or blue. So with two packs you could have a game. See Teams 800+Hasbro colours page for pictures of the two teams.
Part Two - Subbuteo Branding on other companies' products.
In the 21st Century, Subbuteo branding has begun to appear on all manner of products aimed at the affluent forty and fifty-something males, such as toiletries, clothing, bottle-openers and cuff-links. So much, that they needed a new page - 21st century branded products. The branded items that remain here are those that either date from the original Waddingtons era of Subbuteo production, or those that are at least "football game" related - i.e. the Nintendo DS game was an attempt to recreate a Subbuteo experience on the go.
You can't pick up a packet of biscuits in Safeway without finding an offer for a vintage van advertising the product (for only six tokens and £3.99). However, these things are very attractive and popular, and toy fairs tend to be full of them. Lledo, who are one of the biggest producers of this kind of vehicles, seem to have done a few Subbuteo tie-ins. The van illustrated on the left just advertises the product, while the other two were produced for special events - the World Cup in 1990 and a Subbuteo event in Chicago in 1996. What I want now is an OO scale team bus.
My Chicago van has an enclosed slip of card, that explains that this was model No 5 in an exclusive Waddingtons collection. Mine is apparently No 362 of a limited run of 500, produced by The Leeds Model Centre.
Subbuteo. The Computer Game (1989).
There was a short period in the late 1980s when it became fashionable to produce computer versions of board games, and I suppose this was a reasonable thing to do. However, making a computer game of Subbuteo still seems pointless. A game of a game of a game. Nevertheless, this tie-in was attempted. The game appeared in 1990, just as the 8 bit computers were fading away, and the snazzy 16 bit ones were coming in. So, the game was available on the Spectrum, Commodore 64, Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, and possibly one or two others. On the Spectrum side, Your Sinclair gave it 83% in November 1990, but Crash only gave it 54% the following month. Meanwhile, the Atari ST version received 70% in issue 17 of ST Format.
I've played the Spectrum version on emulator, and it plays a rather slow and tactical game. Anyone who played snooker games on the 8bit computers will have some idea how this works. The control works thus: Select the player you want to use, rotate an arrow to decide which direction to flick, then hold the fire button down while the strength of flick bar goes up. When you release the fire button a second "swerve" bar goes up. Press fire in the middle of this bar for a straight flick. You get more swerve the further away from the middle you press. These selections are done "real time", so some co-ordination is advisable! The computer player is very good at swerve, and his defensive flicks are too accurate for me, so my games seemed to degenerate into small scale tactical flicking near my corner flags. It might while away a few hours (because the game is so slow!), but it isn't as much fun as real Subbuteo.
The Spectrum version is very basic, but for the 16bit versions, a few extra enhancements were made. I believe you changed the colours of your team by changing the colours of a boxed Subbuteo team displayed on screen. Neat.
Electronic LCD Game (mid 1990s).
A little hand held computer game badged with the Subbuteo logo. The Irish strip with the Adidas shoulder flashes dates this game to circa 1994, but otherwise, I know little about it. The backing card ties in nicely with the other Subbuteo products of the era.
Apart from that, I know nothing about this game at all. Does anyone own one?
2002: Subbuteo Finger Football (2002).
This must be one of the least regarded Subbuteo sets produced. It was not real Subbuteo at all, and it's a game that collectors generally shudder at. However, the history of the set is perhaps more interesting than what was actually produced.
The set was a direct result of Hasbro's cancellation of the game in the early 2000s, and their apparent disinterest in producing any new games. A smaller, more focused toy company, Flair Leisure Products, felt they could take the game forward and approached Hasbro with the hope of producing a Subbuteo box set. Flair are probably most famous for producing the Sylvanian Families range, which they acquired from Tomy. However, they have also reintroduced other classic toys such as Stickle bricks. Flair found that Hasbro were willing to licence the Subbuteo name (as seen elsewhere), but not the game itself. This was probably because Hasbro's photo-real game was being planned.
Flair decided to test the waters with the Finger Football game. This was a lightweight affair, in which the participants dressed their hands up as football players. The game itself was licensed from an American company, Atomic Toys, and had a supposed official "Finger Football Association". However, it was hardly an original concept, and cheap far-eastern copies are still available to this day should you be so inclined.
The main playing pieces consisted of a pair of plastic boots and socks, which fitted onto the players fingers. A pair of shorts covered the knuckles, and a cut-out card torso completed the look. There were standard red and blue torsos provided, but a template was included, so that you could make your own figures. The goalkeepers were just cut-outs on a rod, like cheap blow-football. Oddly, the outfield players were computer generated, and looked very modern, whereas the goalkeepers looked hand-drawn, and resembled thugs from a 1970s comic.
The main set was called "Ref 10300 Arena Pack" and this also included a pitch made from coarse material, with a high green surround of modern synthetic cloth, which wrapped around thin white plastic supports. The game was necessarily at a much bigger scale than Subbuteo, so none of the items are useful in other games. Unless you want to play with really, really big goals (which might be useful for me, frankly. Too many of my shots go for throw-ins....).
The packaging was attractive enough, although the computer generated players on the box have aged badly, and do not bear close inspection. At least the set came in a reasonably sized box, and the contents were clearly laid out on the back. It is also worth noting that Flair placed the product in small independent toy shops (usually those that stocked Sylvanians), so it was easy to locate and purchase.
Surprisingly, extra team packs were also produced, so that you could turn your hand into famous teams like Brazil. At least this was in the spirit of Subbuteo.
Unfortunately, you can't get away from the fact that the game was a five-minute bit of fun for youngsters (or post-pub), and nothing more than that.
Thanks to Karl Warelow who reminded me that this set was not on the site.
Nintendo DS Subbuteo Game (2008)
Approximately twenty years after the last attempt at an Subbuteo computer game (see above), quirky publisher 505 Games came up with this interesting little diversion. With Subbuteo football itself being a representation of a real sport, producing an electronic recreation of it always strikes me as a little odd. However, the designers have definitely created a simulation of finger flicking, rather than tagging the name onto a football game, and that needs to be applauded. As you might be able to see on the above illustrations, the top screen of the DS shows the action in close up, whilst the touch screen below has a full size pitch on the left of the screen (the yellow rectangle refers to the part of the pitch enlarged on the top screen), whilst the right hand side of the touch screen shows a player and the flicker's hand. The controls are similar to a golf or snooker simulation. Pulling the finger back sets the strength of flick; the arrows around the side of the player choose the direction of the flick; and moving the hand about affects the spin or loft of the player.
As a regular Subbuteo player, the initial surprise was that the game worked pretty well. Once comfortable with the flick strength control, I was knocking it around quite nicely and stringing passes together. However, there were problems. The controls weren't intuitive, and I found myself using a mix of the touch screen controls and the keys. Even then, I was struggling beyond the basic play - i.e. onside flicks don't always seem to be offered (and I couldn't work out how to ask), whilst the game seemed to give me a defensive flick after every two flicks from the computer. At corners, I couldn't move the yellow box, and had to flick players from outside the enlarged viewing area. I'm still not sure quite what rules it was using. However, I did like the manual goalkeeper, which was controlled with a little window on the touch screen. Penalty shoot-outs were sadly from the penalty spot, not the shooting line, and the player taking the penalty was so close to the ball that it was hard to do anything different with them. I didn't score many penalties - I expect there is a knack. However, as I saved most of the computer ones (or it missed), the shoot-outs just went on and on until I was laughing too much to continue. The computer controlled team wanted to set up like a real football team, and didn't seem to know how to deal with my six man back line, which was useful. Oh, and mention must be made of the sound effects, some of which are very strange indeed....
Overall, the game options were sadly limited. There were friendlies and a World Cup, and that was it. Training mode turned out to be simply a friendly with an "undo" button.
As this was designed in 2008, there is a real mish-mash of Subbuteo types. The illustrations and videos all show the old "Hasbro" style of 3D figure, but the options allow you to use the special Cobra and Sidewinder bases from the photo-real game. In truth these special bases probably work better in the virtual world.
I suppose this is the easiest way to play Subbuteo on the bus. Otherwise, the real thing is more fun....