Blog: Retailers to feast on TV World Cup?

Simon Warburton | 16 April 2010

As a reported 500,000 tickets remain unsold for the upcoming football beano in South Africa, the potential dearth of spectators doesn't appear to have deterred fashion retailers from jumping on the quadrennial bandwagon.

With the roaring success of Germany 2006 still fresh in fans' minds in Adidas' homeland, it has come as something of a surprise to see organisers struggle to sell tickets - particularly to overseas fans - but it has perhaps had the effect of allowing more locals to attend at cheaper prices (Cricket World Cup take note).

But this is something of a perfect storm. The world is still in the teeth of the worst recession virtually anyone alive can remember and to have to fork out to travel half way round the world, flying on airlines whose exorbitant prices should be a cause for questions in Parliament, it is perhaps not surprise demand is slack.

But the fact more of the local population as well as those from neighbouring African countries will attend, will nonetheless provide clothing manufacturers - as well as the host of other 'official' and unofficial brands - with a new market to tap.

Trainers, hoodies, caps, badges, shirts, shorts, the list is absolutely endless when it comes to retail potential, particularly merchandise from an 'I was there' perspective.

Of course, there will be wall-to-wall TV coverage - in Europe and Africa at least - for suppliers and retailers to utilise with a negligible time difference allowing viewers almost unlimited viewing possibilities.

All the world's big hitters are jockeying to kit out national teams in their strips - strips they hope will sell in replica form across the globe following the final in July but only one - Adidas - is listed among the plethora of official sponsors.

Time for some guerrilla marketing perhaps? Some sneaky fans wearing Nike or Reebok outfits. Or if they're really daring, some Sports Direct kit whose colourful owner, Mike Ashley has himself modelled a Newcastle United shirt so tastefully at St James Park.

Mind you I can talk. I once wore a French - yes French - football top - to an event at the Stade de France - where the hosts were playing Brazil - only to find the entire party dressed starchily in suits and ties. The formality of the occasion was drilled home to me at half time, when the order came from on high: "Gentlemen, I think we can remove ties."

But despite the hard times in Europe, who are the surprise package when it comes to overseas fans and who have to travel the furthest?

Step forward and take a bow, fans of team USA. It is simply a staggering distance to travel to South Africa but hats off to our American cousins who appear to be embracing 'soccer' with increasing gusto.

It will be fascinating to see how the US networks show the games given the vast time difference - especially to the West coast - but from a retailing/clothing standpoint the interest must have the bean counters interested.

So good luck America. Just as long as you don't beat the mighty England on 12 June at 19:30 in Rustenburg. Not that I'm counting down the days of course.

By Simon Warburton.



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