Can India become a sports merchandising haven?

MUMBAI: The entire business fraternity in India gets buoyed by 500 plus cumulative reach of a sporting event or a movie grossing over Rs 300 crore, but hardly puts any effort in translating this success into other formats. One of the most reached sporting event in India, the Indian Premier League (IPL) over eight years of operation, faltered to develop the merchandising business in India. The story is quite similar in movies too. Star Wars holds the record of largest selling merchandises in movies as it has garnered $12 billion over the years and is still evolving. Indian super hero movies like Krrish and Ra:One hardly managed to scratch the surface of the huge merchandising industry.

Since last year, PUMA has been pumping some much needed energy into the dormant merchandising industry in India. The sports apparel giant signed a five year deal for approximately $51 million per year with London based English Premier League (EPL) football club Arsenal FC in 2014. Arsenal is ranked seventh in the list of top Soccer team valuations, which is lead by Spanish giants Real Madrid FC.

This year, PUMA flew all time Arsenal legends Ray Parlour and Sol Campbell to India and made them launch the Home and Away kit. A screening of historical Invincibles documentary was organised alongside road shows. Mehboob Studios in Mumbai turned into a battalion of gunners wearing red and white, welcoming the legends wholeheartedly by cheering out loud and clear.

Parlour and Campbell were mesmerised, and the eagerness in fans’ eyes to see the new kit unveiled was an encouraging sight for PUMA India managing director Abhishek Ganguly. “India holds 10 per cent of Arsenal’s social media fan base and we feel, we are stronger together. This year’s campaign is named ‘Powered By Fans,’ to make fans feel special to celebrate with them. The new kit is an elevated version of last year, more comfortable, more stylish” he said.

Speaking to about the merchandising market in India, PUMA India executive director product and merchandising Atul Bajaj says, “The market is still at a nascent stage. However, the growth potential is huge and as long as the brands involved have synergies it is a win-win situation. Though the size of licensed merchandise globally is much bigger, the growth rate for this segment is in the range of 80-90 per cent.”

To add to PUMA’s delight, the team broke its trophy jinx by winning the FA Cup in 2014 and wearing PUMA apparel they defended it by winning again in 2015. The fans are more excited now as they believe the league title is inching closer. Sharing PUMA’s aspirations in the second year into the deal Bajaj asserts, “We expect a huge growth in this second year of our association, exceeding 200 per cent. Arsenal has a huge and loyal fanbase, the performances are great with much more to follow and to top it all we have a great merchandise range for the fans. It also helps that Indian fans comprise close to 10 per cent of overall Arsenal fans on social media.” 

As can be seen below in the graph, the sports merchandising market globally grew to $20.07 billion in 2015 compared to $19.57 billion in 2014.

The other factor that predominantly hampers the merchandising industry is piracy. Substantial number of football fans are often spotted all over the country wearing club jerseys but seldom are they original. Though for PUMA the target audience is totally different, Bajaj feels knockouts do damage a brand.

He says, “While knockouts damage a brand, however in terms of business, the target group is completely different. The Arsenal fan and PUMA consumer would never want to buy or wear a cheap fake knockoff. We also have a legal cell in place, which proactively ensures that this menace is minimised.”

Merchandising is not only limited to jerseys, which is the most expensive one but other exclusive products like training kits, wrist bands and stockings used by the players also attract fans. However, brands do not pay enough attention to those, feels Arsenal’s officially recognised Delhi fan club admin Nishant Singhal.

Speaking to, Singhal says, “Powered By Fans delight every fan and the ones that I interact with wear the official jersey of the team. The problem with merchandising is the range of products. Apart for home jerseys, it is very difficult to find anything available and I would request PUMA to change that. Special thanks to them for getting Ray Parlour and Sol Campbell in India. Pricing is not an issue as it is identical globally and people can buy online to avail many discounts.”

Speaking on the range of products, Bajaj claims, “PUMA has a complete range of Arsenal products including Replicas, fanwear, footwear, accessories and more. An Arsenal fan will have the complete range of products available to choose from and enough options to showcase his love for the club.”

Bangalore Arsenal FC official fan club admin Vinay CP is also buoyed by the fact that this year the campaign is named Powered By Fans. He oversaw the proceedings of the 2014 jersey launch. Vinay feels that PUMA is giving adequate visibility to Arsenal products. “In every PUMA store that you enter, you will see Arsenal merchandise everywhere and that’s something I like as a fan. The reason why the merchandising business is not picking up in India is because of the pricing and piracy. Still the number of original jerseys is going up substantially.”

PUMA has also tied up with Amazon India to enhance its reach. The home jerseys, which are priced at Rs 4299, can be purchased from PUMA outlets, and Amazon India. “Amazon helps us reach to a far wider group of consumers and markets, which were earlier inaccessible. The ease of purchase encourages people - who either do not have access or do not want to travel, but be able to get the latest products sitting in their homes. Above all, it provides us a great platform to engage with the fans. Our event related posts on Amazon’s social media for example drove top tier engagement rates,” adds Bajaj.

Baseline co-founder and director R Ramakrishnan feels that in India, merchandising and licensing has huge growth potential. “India is a lucrative market and that’s why PUMA is aggressively promoting Arsenal merchandises by getting in legends in the country. Football merchandising is always a style quotient, the jerseys are always elegantly designed with one title sponsor on it, which one can wear and flaunt unlike those in IPL where it becomes more billboard and less apparel because of the number of sponsors. Given the youth population in the country, I think elegant merchandising will pick up in India,” he says.

A merchandising expert on condition of anonymity opines, “The merchandising partners never really ran an interactive on ground campaign be it WWE, football or cricket and hence the merchandising industry never picked up. It’s so ironical that a country like India, where cricket is considered as less sport and more religion, hardly has a substantial merchandising base. On one side, you have Sachin Tendulkar and on the other side Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. India never took merchandising seriously. PUMA is bringing in what was missing in merchandising industry, they got in Arsenal legends, organised a road show, screened Invincibles for the first time in Asia and that’s the way ahead. They have already started putting hoardings on prime locations. As a well wisher of the merchandising industry I feel all the licensed partners should put in more efforts and rejuvenate the industry.”

IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla in the recent past had said that the BCCI will sell IPL merchandise centrally to boost up the sector. Seven out of the eight teams agreed to that, whereas Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) decided to sell their merchandise separately as they already invested a lot in developing the business. Overall, it remains to be seen if other big names will also join in and contribute to what PUMA has started for the merchandising industry in India to pick pace and reach its potential.

Latest Reads
Facebook & GroupM launch Media Playbook to help brands reimagine media strategies & unlock growth

Mumbai: GroupM and Facebook have come together to launch an industry-first media playbook for advertisers and marketers to adapt to the dramatic change in consumer behaviour as a result of COVID-19. The ‘Turn The Tide’ Media Playbook offers a perspective on the evolving consumer and media landscape...

MAM Marketing MAM
Lloyd forays into refrigerator segment

NEW DELHI: Havells India has announced its entry into the refrigerator segment under its consumer durable brand - Lloyd. The company will also double the range with additional 25 models by Diwali this year. The refrigerator range is designed keeping in mind the modern kitchen aesthetics combined...

MAM Marketing MAM
Ceat signs Aamir Khan as brand ambassador for two years

MUMBAI: Ceat Tyres has signed Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan as its brand ambassador for two years. As part of an integrated marketing campaign, Aamir Khan will feature in two commercials during the course of the IPL 2020 to promote Ceat’s SecuraDrive range of premium car tyres. The first ad will...

MAM Marketing MAM
How to Decide Between QLED, OLED, 4K UHD or Full HD TV

According to ECD, when buying a smart television in India, you need to consider several factors such as size, operating system and the picture resolution. Apart from that, you also need to check the type of display the TV provides because it determines the overall picture quality. 

MAM Marketing MAM
Digital-first brands bet big on Dream11 IPL

NEW DELHI: Cricket is the by far the best media vehicle for any brand if it intends to connect with masses at a pan-India level. The game cuts across all socio-economic boundaries, age-groups, geogrpahies and reaches to 196 million households with television sets. The brand can further amplify its...

MAM Marketing Brands
Disha Patani is Myntra's first-ever beauty brand ambassador

NEW DELHI:  Ahead of the festive season, Myntra announces Bollywood actress, Disha Patani, as its brand ambassador to further consolidate its strong position in the massive and rapidly-growing beauty and personal care (BPC) market in India. Disha has made her mark as a household name after...

MAM Marketing MAM
Harley Davidson exits India

Harley-Davidson will shut down manufacturing and sales operations in India as part of its restructuring exercise under ‘The Rewire’ programme, the US-based motorcycle maker announced on Thursday. Earlier, in August, the bike maker had indicated to restructure business in some its loss making...

MAM Marketing MAM
When Ikea got creative about sleep

Ikea, a global furniture and home furnishing brand, is promoting its sleep range products with clever print and outdoor campaign and positions itself as sleep expert. Designed and conceptualised by Mother London, the ads focuses on the central theme of sleep and turn an energy drink, anti-ageing...

MAM Marketing MAM
Aakash Educational Services appoints Yuvraj Singh as brand ambassador

MUMBAI: Aakash Educational Services (AESL), has appointed ace cricketer Yuvraj Singh as its brand ambassador. The cricketer will promote the company and its various brands including Aakash Institute, Aakash IIT-JEE, Aakash Digital and Meritnation. As the face of Aakash, Yuvraj Singh will lead the...

MAM Marketing MAM

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories

* indicates required