Sports are an important component of our daily lives and several leading sportsmen and teams, both from India and overseas, occupy an “iconic” status amongst ‘fans’. No doubt, in India, cricket is akin to religion, but there is also growing support for Manchester United as well as other leading football teams in Europe and South America. Apart from these sports, even kushti (wrestling) is gaining in popularity, with children between the age of 6 and 13 years closely following the WWE, and the popularity of Khali, Ryback and John Cena, also does not need much explanation. Similarly, basketball, tennis and badminton are getting increased attention from viewers across the country. And, with fans increasingly looking for memorabilia related to their favourite sportsmen, it’s no surprise that eBay curated a special microsite for merchandise related to Sachin Tendulkar, while trading cards of WWE stars are a must-have for every boy. It does not end there, and Adidas offers T-shirts of Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, and an official Messi jersey, while Reebok, the official apparel sponsor of IPL franchises - Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders, had launched merchandise as well as accessories for these teams. Sports are an important component of our daily lives and several leading sportsmen and teams, both from India and overseas, occupy an “iconic” status amongst ‘fans’. No doubt, in India, cricket is akin to religion, but there is also growing support for Manchester United as well as other leading football teams in Europe and South America. Apart from that, Kolkata Knight Riders along with their casual wear apparel partner FreeCultr offers shoes, belts, hats and T-shirts, amongst others, and demand from fans is strong. In addition, Mattel launched WWE ‘action figures’ and role play sets of leading sportsmen. Growth of sports licensing Sports are often described as a multi-generational activity in a household, and over the past few years, fans have slowly amassed a wide range of collectibles, including licensed apparels, video games and CDs, in a bid to show their loyalty to a particular team or sportsmen. Apart from that, sports licensing varies substantially from entertainment-related segments, given the rather unpredictable nature of an individual or team’s performance during a match, along with the purchase decision of fans for merchandise. And, while most popular cartoon series from global icons have seen modifications over the years, but it can’t be compared to the inherent “dynamic” nature of sports. As a result, the nature of promotional activities between these two segments of the licensing industry, differ substantially. In sports licensing, while signed collectibles and related merchandise are the most popular, and at times “expensive”, but apparel and video game sales are viewed as key for a successful licensing program. In addition, this segment is largely driven by fans’ reverence of their icons, and loyalty to teams, and it creates several promotional opportunities. For instance, during the IPL season, several restaurants and allied food outlets offer special menus, and “chances” for participants to win tickets to the game. Clearly, sports licensing helps fans to ‘connect’ with their icons, and India is also becoming part of this global trend.
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