Brand football to give cricket run for money in India
Manchester United football club has an estimated Indian fan base of 2 crore
FOOTBALL MIGHT be the only sport in India where support for foreign players and teams is more than that for the local players and teams. Sure Baichung Bhatia is a favourite, but he won’t be cheered for with the same enthusiasm and excitement as Ronaldo, Messi or even the young, arrogant but talented Ballotelli.
With true fans ready to go to any extent to show their love for their favourite teams, it is no surprise that the clubs would want to cash in on it. Football fans can literally wear the love for their team on their sleeve. Even on their heads and as boxers as well.
The popularity of football in India has made it ‘the’ market for football clubs to direct their merchandise. According to a report, the size of the sportswear market in India in 2010 was Rs 1,259 crore and it was growing then at 15 percent per year.
Manchester United (Man Utd), who finished second in the English Premier League season 2011-2012 has an estimated Indian fan base of two crore. They are one of the most valuable sports teams in the world, estimated somewhere around $385 million.
A significant contribution to that figure is from the sale of merchandise. Rakesh Taneja, Manager at Nike’s at N-Block Market, GK-1 says, “United and Barcelona are popular, and we have 3-4 customers coming to buy their jerseys on a regular basis .” The price of each jersey is Rs 3,295.
Man Utd has a tie up with Indus League Clothing Ltd, a part of the Future Group. Loyal Red Devils buy the club’s official merchandise as if it was going out of stock. The going-out-of-stock may actually happen as Rahul Sharma, Manager of Indus Clothing Ltd, Connaught Place (CP) says that per day they get 10-15 customers.
A while back, Indus Clothing Ltd launched an exclusive Man Utd store in Mumbai. The company is now opening various other outlets. The outlet at cp is one such new expansion, which started selling Utd merchandises a month back.
The Manchester United Café Bar on the Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road is popular amongst the ‘Red Devil’ fans. During match days the bar is jampacked. It could cost you at least Rs 1,000 to get in, which is decent enough.
What with football and beer being synonymous, you could easily end up burning a hole in your pocket in one night.
Man Utd was the first football club to set up its cafe in India, in Mumbai in 2009. It did this by tying up with the Mumbai-based Mirah Group. Within the next 18 months, there were five more cafés in Mumbai.
Pepsi has Drogba in all their latest ads, along with the Indian cricket team players — combining two of the most popular sports in India
Recently Liverpool FC, another team from the English Premier League, has announced the opening of its chain of cafés in India. The club already has a deal with the Noida-based Carnousite Group to open a football academy.
The Group also has plans to sell the club’s official merchandise.
Seeing the success and profit of Man Utd, it is no surprise for ‘The Reds’ to do so. The only surprise is that they didn’t do so sooner.
Even the Indian company Venky-owned Blackburn Rovers fc (an English club) plans to start the sale of their merchandise in India. With the club getting relegated recently and losing its revenues and top players, the poultry group may be looking to emulate the bigger teams’ example to increase their profits.
India now seems to be the football destination. In 2011 Argentina and Venezuela had their friendly match in Kolkata while in 2012, Bayern Munich (German club) played a friendly against the Indian football team in New Delhi (which was Bhutia’s farewell match).
2011 saw Kolkata painted in blue and white stripes, the colours of Argentina. Everybody and anybody wore Argentina’s jersey. Number 10 Messi was everywhere. Bhutia’s farewell match saw at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium an assorted collection of various team jerseys.
Arjun, a shop owner at Palika Bazaar, says, “Whenever there is a foreign player coming or the World Cup is going on, more people come to buy the jerseys.” Football settings like these are excellent ways to increase sales.
Didier Drogba, another popular star player, was in New Delhi recently for playing in the Pepsi tournament. Pepsi has him in all their latest ads, along with the Indian cricket team players. That is one way to combine two of the most popular sports in India to get maximise your market.
With some of world’s best players playing on the field, the Euro 2012 provides a good set-up for the brands to sell their merchandise.
With the club football season closed, the Euro 2012 at this time of the year will help the cafes/bars to increase their revenues a well.
With top players priced approximately at €30 million (Robin Van Persie) and with the top clubs willing to pay that much to rope the star players in their squad, plus with debts surmounting to approximately €150 million (FC Barcelona), selling their merchandise and setting up bars/cafes/academies seems a good business option. And football today is business. Football clubs and the players are world recognised brands.
One may wonder, with the amount of money involved, if football is still just a simple game with 22 players on field running after a ball trying to out-skill, out-class each other to score a goal.
Well the answer is: It still is. On-field it is. Off-field it’s a totally different ball game.