In 2006, FC Fossombrone were bought by the internationally-renowned Belgian designer Dirk Bikkembergs. Bikkembergs, who's fashion collections are made in Fossombrone - a village of just under 10,000 residents - since the early 1990s, had already been sponsoring the local football club for a year.
Bikkembergs' goal is to make the team the face of fashion and help the club, founded in 1949, climb up the Italian football pyramid from the current sixth tier.
The designer company, which dresses the team on and off the field with its unique brand of football boots, team kits, training gear and casual after-match clothing; has redeveloped the stadium, provided a coach for the team to travel and has took on annual operating costs of around 1million euros.
The partnership with FC Fossombrone began when a model called in sick, and Bikkembergs, who was starting a line of sport-influenced clothing, asked a warehouse worker to stand in. Unlike the professional model, Alberto Tombini reacted to the clothes; some made him preen, others sulk.
Bikkembergs was fascinated. "I found out that the guy I picked was the captain of FC Fossombrone," he said. "I started selecting the clothes, without telling him, based on his reaction."
From there on the designer started using the FC Fossombrone team as his laboratory for styling and fabric technology. From couture jackets to high-performance sports underwear, all Bikkembergs products are tested by the players.
The players have also become the face of the Bikkembergs Sport brand and participate as models for advertising campaigns, magazine and television advertisements, and even on the catwalk stage at the unveiling of new products.
"This used to be just a local team that played on Sunday afternoons," said Gianluca Cordella, an FC Fossombrone employee. "Now it's a professional team with an organisation to support it. Everything has changed for the guys."
The attention received by the club through the media and fans worldwide has attracted many multinational companies to offer sponsorship deals. The club now have Samsung as sponsors for their shirts, including for the iconic home white-with-blue-swirls design.
On the pitch, FC Fossombrone have started this 2008-09 season in impressive fashion. After 14 league matches in Girone A of the regional Marche Eccellenza league, they are unbeaten and sit at the summit of the 18-team table - eight points ahead of their nearest rivals.
Following disappointments in the national play-offs in both the previous two years, the Biancoazzurri will be looking to maintain top spot and win automatic promotion into the fifth tier of Italian football - Serie D, and a step closer to professional football.
Here on Italian-Calcio blog, we will follow the progress of FC Bikkembergs Fossombrone as they chase their dream of climbing up the Italian football ladder and one day play right at the top - in Serie A.
Source: IHT / FC Bikkembergs Fossombrone / FIGC LND Marche