Best Merchandising Strategies in Sports Clubs, Leagues & Federations
Merchandising in the sports industry is more than selling a product of your brand. It’s giving your fans a chance to identify with the values you represent while enhancing your visibility! No matter what size your sports organisation is, you certainly can benefit from implementing products & services that will both increase your brand’s recognisability and fulfil supporters’ expectations.
Read our article and get the answers to all of these questions:
What is merchandising?
Why do fans want to buy and possess sports merchandise?
What are the best merchandising strategies for sports organisations?
What are the merchandising advantages & threats in the sports industry?
How can you prevent “counterfeiting” of your brand?
WHAT IS MERCHANDISING
Merchandising, in its simplest form, is the practice of using the branding of one ‘product’ in order to maximise the sale of another “product”. In other words, merchandising can be understood as all the activities aiming to promote the sale of your goods & services.
We differentiate between five  types of merchandising:
#1 PRODUCT MERCHANDISING
As the name suggests – product merchandising – refers to all activities boosting the sales of your product. This might be applied both to online and in-store promotional actions, such as website design, product display or social media communication.
#2 VISUAL MERCHANDISING
Displaying the product to highlight its features is what we call visual merchandising. It refers to choosing the lighting, design, order or space to show your goods. From the digital point of view, it can be used to adjust digital space, colours, fonts, functionalities or web design.
#3 RETAIL MERCHANDISING
Retail merchandising is all about the physical sale of the products (which is known mainly from the brick and mortar stores).
#4 “OMNICHANNEL” MERCHANDISING
Have you ever thought of creating a unified customer experience on all platforms you use to reach your supporters? That’s what we call an “omnichannel merchandising”, whose main characteristic is its cohesion.
#5 DIGITAL OR ONLINE MERCHANDISING
With the development of technology, a new sales channel has been created – the internet. Instead of retail merchandising, we have digital or online merchandising, which are the terms covering all activities used to promote products or services online.
WHY DO FANS WANT TO BUY AND POSSESS SPORTS MERCHANDISE
Purchasing, possessing and wearing (or using) sports merchandise is different from buying goods from your favourite clothing company. The reasons why people decide to buy products branded by their favourite sports clubs, leagues or federations is closely connected to their emotional, very often illogical, side. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean you can forget about the right design and quality of your merchandise.
Sport is an inspiring, immersive and emotion-evoking activity that makes thousands of people gather together. Supporters wear apparel to prove to others where they come from, what team or player they like, what’s their passion or what community they represent.
Having your favourite sports club merchandise is a great way to start a conversation with other passionate individuals, share your values with the public or feel a part of a bigger community.
Give your supporters a chance to feel proud of your team, not only thanks to your sports results but also the quality of products branded or licensed by your organisation. Engaging passionate people willing to spread their positive emotions towards your club within their friends through your top-quality merchandise is one of the best ways to reach new fans.
BEST MERCHANDISING STRATEGIES FOR SPORTS ORGANISATIONS
The world doesn’t like stagnation, so it’s constantly changing. The same happens to the best merchandising strategies. What we used to perceive as the only right way to approach product creation, branding and marketing has been revolutionised. The reason lies in the fans’ habits development.
Let’s look at Generation Z. Do you know that the vast majority of those born after 1996 have a tendency to follow and support individual players rather than clubs as a whole? That creates a demand for an entirely new merchandising strategy, focused more on using your athletes’ image rather than your sports brands’ logo.
Interesting, isn’t it? It’s the athletes that young people want to identify with!
Still, it doesn’t mean that you should forget about what older generations prefer. The best way to win the market is to combine traditional merchandising activities with innovative ideas. That’s how you maximise the probability of success, especially if you base your decision-making process on the CIAM tools such as WICKET.
#1 PERSONAL MERCHANDISING
Personal merchandising is the term we use to describe the actions you take to promote your products through the usage of individuals’ images, like footballers. Use your fans’ favourite players to promote your products & services.
Show their background, interests, all their passions and preferences. That’s how you will create a tight relationship between your sports brand and the supporters. UMPIRE CMS and BRISK might be extremely helpful here, too.
#2 SPORTS ORGANISATIONS MERCHANDISING
Still, remember that for many, your club is more than just the players themselves. One day they might be transferred out, but your brand will, hopefully, exist forever. That’s why it’s so important to have products that use your sports organisations’ branding.
The closer you make your sports club be to the values your community appreciates, the higher your chance of winning their hearts! Merchandising might be one of the best ways to share your ideals, your connection to the city and more!
#3 DIGITAL ASSETS MERCHANDISING
Whenever you want to educate others about tokens, you need to start by defining them as digital assets… and they also need to be merchandised in the digital space!
Think carefully about your tokens’ designs and the process of their purchase. They might constitute a perfect place for sharing the values you believe in, promoting your sponsor or exposing your brand’s historical symbol. Don’t forget to use the techniques that merchandising taught us throughout the years!
#4 PARTNERS & SPONSORS MERCHANDISING
Securing a sponsorship in sport is not a piece of cake… but it’s not rocket science either! You need to prove to your business partners that you know how to make their brand stand out in the eyes of their potential customers and your everyday fans.
Delivering top-quality merchandise with the smoothly organised design of your partners’ branding is a must-have for any successful sports organisation!
#5 “VALUES” MERCHANDISING
At the end of the day, whatever strategy on merchandising you decide to take, remember about the values you want to share with your public. Of course, fan engagement monetisation is important, which is natural. Still, don’t forget that it’s people and brands with strong values that your supporters would like to follow.
Use merchandising to expose what your sports organisation stands for!
We wouldn’t discuss the topic of sport merchandising if it didn’t have numerous valuable advantages. Let’s see what we should name here when it comes to sport merchandising strengths:
Enhancement of fan engagement;
Higher profitability -> fan engagement monetisation;
Increased brand loyalty;
Increased brand recognition;
Improved employees’ productivity;
Attracting new fans (not only from the sports sector).
Whichever target is the most important for you, if you know how to organise your sport merchandising activities to maximise the potential of your brand, all of them are within your sports club’s reach!
As long as strengths dominate over weaknesses, everything goes according to plan. Still, successful sport merchandising strategies are implemented by those aware of the potential threats. Be careful not to:
Make your expenses higher than your gains;
Let your supporters down by offering them inadequate or low-quality merchandise;
License your brand to an uncertain partner;
Place fan engagement monetisation over fan experience;
Make your sports merchandising be addressed only to your core fans.
Avoiding these mistakes and constantly working on improving your brand’s sport merchandising strategies & design will bring you amazing, long-term results!
“ILLEGAL MERCHANDISING” AND COUNTERFEITING – HOW TO PREVENT IT?
Wherever there is big money, there are thieves and scammers. No doubt about it. Illegal merchandising constitutes a problem that thousands of big sports brands need to face. So, how can you deal with it? What can you do to prevent counterfeiting?
The subject is more complicated than it may seem. Yet, many see the solution in the developing blockchain technology (which also becomes more affordable as time passes).
Giving your products a certificate of authenticity that is easy to recognise is one of the most desired solutions. It’s achievable, especially if you use the combination of QR or AR technology with blockchain solutions based on NFC. You can even go as far as to attach NFT tokens to all your most precious products.
The digital world possibilities to influence the real one are becoming more attractive for those willing to fight illegal merchandising. Will it be sufficient to end counterfeiting? Probably no, but it can be a significant step to make a move in the right direction!
Interested in creating a smooth design of your online fan store, which will be compatible with your tangible shop and create an “omnichannel merchandising” experience for your fans? TISA knows how to help you, so feel free to contact us!
Are you looking for more information about digital transformation in the sports industry? Visit our website to learn more about dedicated products and innovations designed for sports. To find out more about how TISA can help your organisation thrive in the digital world, contact us directly – we will be happy to talk about your case. And if you’d like to join our team and help us create the best digital solutions for the world of sports, check out our current career opportunities.