The aluminium profiles in the world’s most popular table football game are manufactured at Mäkelä Alu21/02/2023
Mäkelä Alu’s idea: all our customer relationships are more than just about profiles, whether the customer is looking for a single aluminium profile, larger deliveries or warehousing services. The table football game Subsoccer®, which has gained immense international popularity, is being produced in Lauttasaari, Helsinki. All its parts are made in Finland, including the aluminium profiles used in the frame, which are manufactured at Mäkelä Alu’s factory in Luoma-aho.
“When someone has an idea for a product, they present it to the supplier, and our job is to design the aluminium profile needed in the product so well that it fits perfectly with the other parts and that the final product is cost-effective, durable, and ready for the market. This is also the part we play in the story of Subsoccer®,” says Product Manager Pasi Korhonen from Mäkelä Alu.
An idea born by chance
The developer of Subsoccer®, Jarno Saarinen, came up with the idea for the product by chance.
“I was on a summer holiday in Spain with my family, and the European Football Championship was taking place at the same time. I was watching a game between Russia and Spain on the balcony of the hotel when my daughter Emma wanted to play with me. We sat opposite each other on chairs and had a plastic ball that we kicked at each other. Emma kicked the ball under my chair and shouted SCORE,” says Jarno Saarinen, the man behind the Subsoccer® idea and the founder of 4 Feet Under, the company behind the brand.
“I also wanted to watch the game while I was playing with Emma, so we used wet towels and swimsuits to build sides around the chairs so that the ball wouldn’t roll away. We had a lot of fun and suddenly I realised that we had come up with a whole new game,” he continues.
The story of Subsoccer® began from that moment, and within a few years, the product gained immense popularity among the world’s most famous football stars, leagues, sports circles and brands.
From vision to production
The idea for Subsoccer® sat in a drawer for a few years before it was taken forward with the help of 4 Feet Under, a company founded in 2016.
“At first, we didn’t really know whether the product was intended for children or adults. We also had no plans for internationalisation. We started looking for Finnish manufacturers who could deliver parts for the assembly as a turnkey solution,” says Markus Toivanen, partner and Head of Product Development and Production at 4 Feet Under.
The product consists of aluminium profiles and an injection-moulded corner piece that bind the structure together.
“This was our first challenge: how to make the relatively soft plastic part and the aluminium profiles stick together. We had to find suitable experts that could work together to solve this problem. We wanted to find the best people for the project, because the product had to be of high quality and durable,” says Jarno Saarinen.
The successful solution was developed in cooperation with Mäkelä Alu and North Karelian plastic product manufacturer Vesuto. In total, the product receives components from 11 Finnish suppliers.
“The design work together with Mäkelä Alu went well. We received plans for parts from 4 Feet Under. We had to improve the original plans to some extent to ensure the quality and usability of the parts,” says Veikko Viitanen from Vesuto.
“When designing the profiles, it was important to find the right dimensions to fit the plastic and aluminium parts, within their respective tolerances. Aluminium profiles can be extruded into all kinds of shapes, the possibilities are endless. Another option for an edge profile is a profile with LED lights,” Pasi Korhonen adds.
“We often cooperate with other suppliers as well. This highlights Mäkelä Alu’s service promise: we can provide various services to our customers on a turnkey basis, from an idea to a finished product. We can take care of the profile design, tool manufacturing, extrusion of aluminium profiles, surface treatments, the necessary machining on the profiles and, of course, the delivery,” says Sales Specialist Antti Lesonen from Mäkelä Alu.
“We deliver two different profiles for Subsoccer®. They are pre-sawn to the right dimensions and surface treated. What makes the product particularly interesting is when it is made with the colours of different brands and it is exciting to see where the product ends up,” he adds.
Viral videos boosted success
The first Subsoccer® games were delivered to Superpark in Vantaa in 2019. This was just before the coronavirus pandemic. Shortly after, it became clear that the market in Finland would not be large enough.
“We had a product worth 2,500 euros that we wanted to sell to the world. In the second year of the coronavirus pandemic, we sold the product to more than 50 countries. Of course, in the beginning we had trouble getting notable references. Soon, however, football stars began to take an interest in the product, and soon our videos had millions of views on various social media channels,” says Saarinen.
Subsoccer® games for the world’s biggest brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Puma, Heineken and Ajax are currently on the production queue.
According to Saarinen, the Subsoccer® game’s popularity is based on a very simple thing: in addition to being fun, the game also looks fun on social media. There is often an increase in orders and contacts after social media posts gain high visibility.
“The videos that have gone viral have also caught the attention of sports media, and we have gained visibility in prime time even on Fox News. All thanks to social media,” says Saarinen.
International business from Finland
95 percent of the company’s revenue comes from exports. The product has not become a hit in Finland, at least not yet – this is likely due to the fact that Finland does not have a similar football culture as the big football countries abroad.
“Our first Finnish sports club partner is HIFK Football. Even though we have important partners around the world, everything is run from Finland. Of course, we also have warehouses and production lines abroad.”
“We have yet to conquer the consumer market. Our modest goal is to make our product the biggest table game of the century,” Saarinen concludes.