If you thought last year had been hijacked by licensed merchandise,
with Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins peering down from every shop shelf,
On May 31, the 17th FIFA World Cup kicks off in Japan and Korea, and
chances are that consumers won't be able to move on the high street
without running into a FIFA logo.
While matches might be scheduled for broadcast at awkward times in the
UK, the merchandise will ensure fans retain some sense of
Didn't catch England playing Argentina? Why not console yourself with a
FIFA bubble bath, then dry off with a World Cup towel?
A bit parched and peckish from the tension of watching England take on
Sweden? Well, you can feast on World Cup pretzels, yoghurt or breakfast
cereal, washed down with water from a World Cup sports bottle.
Spend your nights dreaming it's you scoring for England? That's probably
because you're snuggled up in your World Cup pyjamas under your World
'Less is more'
Despite a lengthy list of merchandise, FIFA claims it has gone for a
'less is more' approach in a bid to prevent overkill.
In 1998, there were 300 World Cup licensees, compared with this year's
250. But while about £833m was generated by licensed products four
years ago, FIFA estimates merchandise will make £902m this
As Chris Protheroe, director of sport at Copyright Promotions Licensing
Group, the exclusive worldwide licensing agency for the event, explains:
"By appointing a smaller number of licensees that have greater global
distribution and product category rights, we create less competition
among licensees and ensure a high standard of product."
The licensees that made it through FIFA's rigorous selection process are
counting the benefits of being involved with the World Cup - the
principal one being the 60 million people who will watch a total of 128
hours of football in the UK alone.
"It's one of the biggest global events," says Ben Walsh, sales director
of Poplar Linens, which is bringing out a range of towels, bed linen and
flags. "Our estimated sales run into the millions - the products will be
appearing pretty much everywhere."
Howard Plastics will use the event to ensure a high-profile launch for
its branded sports-style water bottle, while Sportsetail, the official
direct mail licensee, will launch a range of apparel, including
T-shirts, baseball caps, polo shirts and pyjamas.
"Apparel and kidswear will be the big sellers," says marketing director
David Smith. "As football plays such a large part in people's lives, I
don't think they will be turned off by the amount of merchandise
Other companies, while not official FIFA licensees, intend to align
their brand with football, and thus the World Cup. The Licensing Company
is bringing out a range of Purple Ronnie football-oriented products from
February, including a book called Purple Ronnie's Guide to Football, a
football-shaped tissue box and gift packs containing boxer shorts and a
whistle or football.
"They're not official FIFA goods but we felt some customers will want a
light-hearted approach to football," says licensing manager Jeremy
"We're trying to capitalise on the good feeling the event will
But there are some warnings for companies getting involved with the
World Cup, not the least of which is that many brands will be lost among
the merchandise clutter.
"A lot of brands will attach themselves to the World Cup without working
out what to do with the attachment," says Stuart Leach, head of
strategic planning at Interfocus. "They should ask what their objectives
are, and how they can stand out."
For licensees, there is also the issue of maximising the merchandise
opportunities within a short timeframe. "After June, no one will be
buying World Cup goods, so we have to control quantities extremely
carefully," admits Howard Plastics managing director David Howard.
Licensees must also ensure their products are launched well ahead of
kick-off. "Brands need to capitalise on the hype that builds up two to
three months before the event," says Jamie Edgar, business development
director of the Marketing Store's consumer products division.
"If England is knocked out in the first round, there'll be less
excitement surrounding the event and corresponding products."
But for those licensees that get it right, the rewards will be high.
And as Leach points out: "If you're in licensing and can't flog the
World Cup, you might as well go home."
MARKS & SPENCER'S WORLD CUP CAMPAIGN
This year will see Marks & Spencer take control of a licence for the
first time, after signing a deal with Copyright Promotions Licensing
Group to become a major clothing and apparel licensee for the 2002 World
In previous years, suppliers produced licensed goods for the high-street
chain for sports, brand or entertainment properties.
"It won't make a huge difference to turning sales around," says
Sojourner Jones, PR manager for M&S. "But it will help us control what
is produced, how it is produced and how quickly it is produced. Now
there will be total cohesion, with products coming from one base instead
M&S will produce a wide range of goods, but one of its top sellers is
likely to be childrenswear. "The benefits of being involved with the
World Cup are broad. Customers are drawn into the stores because
children like football, and they will know they can come and buy the
products here," Jones says.
In addition to kids' clothes and nightwear, the stores will stock adult
outer-garments and sports-related accessories, including shorts,
swimming shorts, goalie tops and baseball caps. "We wouldn't enter any
venture without being sure it would sell well," says Jones. The goods
should be in M&S stores in time for Easter half-term.
WORLD CUP DEALS
PRODUCT LICENSEE DEAL DATE DISTRIBUTION
Clothing/accessories Marks & Spencer 13/12/01 UK
Socks Samuel Eden &Son 22/11/01 UK, ROI,
Kids' nightwear Aykroyd's & Sons 22/11/01 UK
Drinks bottles Howard Plastics 6/11/01 UK
jewellery Funky Fish 16/10/01 Pan-European
face cloths Poplar Linens 20/9/01 Pan European
underwear Sportsetail 20/9/01 Pan-European
Lighters Swedish Match
Lighters 06/09/01 Pan-European
accessories Rotoball SA 20/2/01 Worldwide (excl