Trends & Features

The big event

What will be made of the forthcoming big sporting events such as the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Olympic Games? John Bensalhia looks at how retailers can make the best of these great opportunities

2009 is a bit of a strange one in the sporting calendar, as there are not that many big events taking place. However, the next few years are set to bring us more televised treats, including the 2010 World Cup, the 2011 Rugby World Cup and the 2012 Olympic Games. What are the implications, though, for sports shops during these big events?

The most likely scenario is that sports shops will do big business during these sporting behemoths, since more people will be inspired to get involved. The double whammy is that there will be both more goods and more promotions in order to capitalise on this success. Sports shops, though, should take a number of things into consideration.

For one thing, they should recognise their target audiences, including both the keen sports people and the more casual sports wannabe that may be enticed into buying one of the products. They should also do their best to attract the people that would not be so interested in sport and would otherwise be sitting at home in front of the TV with a beer or two.
One advantage is that there is greater sponsorship among companies. For example, Adidas has been a sponsor of the football World Cup tournament for a number of years and has been the official sponsor of 21 national teams, including Argentina, France, Germany, Japan, Spain and Trinidad and Tobago.

Nike, on the other hand, has pulled off a major coup in the football world with a 10-year sponsorship deal with the Brazilian national team. This deal has extended to 2018 for around £4million. Nike has also sponsored 14 national teams, including eight in the World Cup. These are Australia, Brazil, Croatia, South Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United States of America.

Figures from the last World Cup indicated high levels of retail sales. 75million officially sanctioned World Cup products were sold in 2006. The FA’s head of business development, Marc Armstrong, said that the response to sales was fantastic: “We have hit unprecedented sales levels. We appreciate the support of our fans in buying official merchandise as all surpluses made from these products are invested back into the game at all levels.”

The founder of JJB, Dave Whelan, is upbeat about the prospects that the Olympics will bring. Whelan has also said that there would be phenomenal opportunities for the country if the rugby and football World Cup were to be staged in the UK. Bids have been put in – whether or not they prove to be successful remains to be seen.

So what can be done to get people genuinely interested in sport during this time? The biggest targets are the casual ones that are just along for the ride. Events such as the rugby and football World Cups may bring out the more jingoistic qualities in people, but they are still good groups to target. Sports shops should look to capitalise on this raw interest by looking at what draws people to these events.

Is it the inspiration? Are people inspired by seeing professional sportsmen and women doing well in national sports tournaments? If so, sports shops should advertise these sporting celebrities in all sorts of ways – posters, endorsements and clothes. That way, people can see that if their hero or heroine endorses a certain product, then it may be worth buying.

Natasha Burton of retail analyst FootFall argues that shop owners should also capitalise
on the party atmosphere that surrounds such events as the World Cup. “Retailers can capitalise on the goodwill and ‘carnival atmosphere’ surrounding the World Cup by creating a buzz in-store with branded merchandise or football-related promotions, offers, incentives and events, all of which will provide a great platform to launch their new summer product ranges,” she says.

The burning question is whether the aforementioned high levels of sales can be maintained given the current economic crisis across the country. It’s arguable that future events will manage to bring in more money given Britain’s interest in football. Whether or not this will mean greater prosperity for sports retailers is uncertain. There is still keen interest in the 2012 Olympic Games, and that means that both overseas tourism and local publicity will help to maintain that interest. In the meantime, retail outlets can look ahead to the future, plan their marketing strategies and target audiences, and make the best of some great opportunities to come.

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