Textbooks on Sports Marketing claim that merchandising is a very important activity for promotion and spreading of a sports brand. Many clubs sell shirts, caps, scarfs, pens etc. with their logo on, besides their jerseys. As Melissa Jane Johnson Morgan & Jane Summers write in their Sports Marketing textbook, ‘The use of merchandising as a sports product extension can also be very successful. Using this form of promotion, the specific elements of the sport – those attributes unique to the sport – can be extended. (Sports Marketing, 2005, p. 153)
It all sounds very obvious and basically all clubs do it, but last week I came across an interesting post of Tokushima Vortis in this regard, which kept me thinking. The J.League side promoted two new branded products with a very simple online banner. The banner clearly prompted visitors to visit the special goods department in the main square of the stadium before their match against Shimizu S-Pulse (which they eventually lost 0-4). You might ask, ‘What is interesting about this? Many clubs do it.’ True, but the interesting part is that Tokushima Vortis promoted highlighter pens that cost about 500 yen (something like €3.50) and arm covers, or female summer-gloves as I like to call them, that cost around 1,600 yen (something like €11.30). When I happen to come across online sales banners from clubs such as Glasgow Celtics, Juventus FC, Manchester City, FC Zurich etc., they promote jerseys, match tickets, or leisure clothing, not pens or other merchandise that costs less than a meal at your local diner.
The point I’m trying to make is that because it basically doesn’t cost anything anymore (except human resources) to push out such banners through owned social media channels, clubs might as well crab the opportunity by the horns and share these banners besides other, arguably more lucrative, (commercial) messages. Especially, if such banners have to be created for print magazines, matchday leaflets or similar media anyway. In addition, as Tokushima Vortis does it, steering fans to the special goods department in the stadium instead of urging them to shop for goods online, might invoke a more special experience, since they will go through other branded goods before the match. This will hopefully strengthen their bond with the Tokushima Vortis brand… and who knows, they might even buy a new authentic team jersey sooner or later, which in Japan can easily cost more than €200.
Just to make sure we all remember how ‘merchandising’ is defined: John A. Davis and Jessica Zutz Hilbert define ‘Merchandising‘ as ‘the arrangement of products in a physical or online store to maximize sale’. Determining the appropriate mix of merchandise (in other words, the selection of items, from apparent to accessories bearing the licensed trademarks of the sports entity) must be based on the sports entity’s knowledge of its customer base, which includes a detailed profile encompassing demographic (age, income, gender, ethnicity etc.), behavioral (what people do), psychographic (lifestyle) and geographic (location) characteristics. (Sports Marketing: Creating Long Term Value, 2013, p. 362)
What was the last piece of football branded merch you have bought? Feel free to leave your answer in the comment section below.