Italian fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana may have different views on Italian soccer, but they are unanimous in their support for the national squad — the Azzurri — on and off the pitch.
The duo are among several designers to tap players' appeal on fashion-hungry fans to boost brand image and sales.
However, they said they would cheer Italy as genuine fans when the team meets Paraguay in their Group F opener on Monday.
"I've loved soccer since I was a child," said Domenico Dolce, an AC Milan fan who never misses a match when they play at the San Siro stadium in Milan.
"We will support our national team watching TV," he told Reuters.
Stefano Gabbana is not a die-hard soccer fan like Dolce, but he said he would be glued to the television as well. "For sure, we won't miss a match", he said.
Dolce and Gabbana, whose passion for the game dates back to 2003 when they published a book called "Calcio" ("Soccer"), have hired five Italian players for their underwear campaign. Similar shots in 2006 featured captain Fabio Cannavaro and midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, among others.
Photographed in an old-fashioned changing room, footballers Antonio Di Natale, Vincenzo Iaquinta, Claudio Marchisio, Federico Marchetti and Domenico Criscito pose shirtless in underpants with the word "calcio" emblazoned on the waistband.
Playing on Italian pride, the campaign confirms the appeal of the World Cup for fashion designers.
"It is generally accepted that sports stars are an effective way of driving sales but also of changing brand perception," Simon Chadwick, professor of Sport Business Strategy and Marketing at Coventry University in England, told Reuters.
"There is also a clear advantage in being associated with players who are visible worldwide," he said.
Luxury handbag and luggage maker, Louis Vuitton, owned by LVMH, has designed the trophy case for the cup and signed photographer Annie Leibovitz to snap photos of Argentina's Diego Maradona, France's Zinedine Zidane and Brazil's Pele to advertise its canvas travel bags.
But for Dolce and Gabbana, who have recently renewed their partnership with pop icon Madonna, ambassadors must identify themselves with their brands like fans do with their team.
"We have worked with the most beautiful men and women in the world, but we have always asked ourselves if these people, apart from being more or less famous, had something of Dolce and Gabbana," Dolce said.