One of the key elements of the off-season period, other than signing players, is the launch of the new kit for the upcoming season. When teams launch new kit for the up-coming season, die-hard supporters rush to retail stores to buy their team’s new jersey, usually with the aim to be seen as the first one to be seen wearing the new kit. The unfortunate reality is that the home and away kit as well as supporters’ golf shirt are the only items made available to the fan base.
I am of the view than supporters should be given a variety of merchandise to choose from.
Granted, as a football team/brand you can’t make everything available to the market for financial reasons, but a classic pull strategy could be used to satisfy supporters’ merchandise needs. The shortfall of the current push strategy is that teams make jerseys available at the beginning of the season, but by the end of the season there are still a large number left over that have to be marked down so that they can make shelf space for the next season’s kit. With an effective use of social media marketing, putting options on Facebook and requesting votes/sharing the designs with fans, teams could guage the demand and offer what the supporters want versus releasing jerseys and justhoping that supporters will be buy en-masse.
Interestingly in South Africa, while team scarves are mostly bought by the black market, there are no official scarves made either by the teams or their kit sponsors except for Kaizer Chiefs. If there’s a demand for scarves of European teams in the South African market, surely there should a demand for scarves of South African teams?
Another effective tool of marketing a football jersey is to push the brand via the supporters’ base. A classic example is how teams such as Barcelona and Manchester United are using fan bases to sell merchandise en-masse to supporters in the Far-East Asian markets, by tapping into databases generated from club website as well as Facebook and Twitter followers.
It could also be useful to offer supporters discounts to celebrate great victories in the middle of the season. When Manchester City defeated Manchester United 6-1 at Old Trafford during the 2011/2012 season, Manchester City offered their supporters a 10% discount and free-delivery in the UK on any purchase valid for five days. In the local PSL league, Mamelodi Sundowns defeated Kaizer Chiefs 4-1 at the beginning of the 2012/2013 season, first time Mamelodi Sundowns scored 4 goals against Kaizer Chiefs in 17 years.
I’m of the view that this was a potential market opportunity that was missed.
Orlando Pirates won six trophies in two seasons and the only team merchandise widely available was the home and away kit. No championship limited edition merchandise. Another missed marketing opportunity.
Kaizer Chiefs won a league and cup double this season (2012/2013), winning the league for the first time in six seasons. They should be maximising the on-field achievement by selling all sorts of Kaizer Chiefs merchandise.
Marketing a sports product/brand is different from marketing a conventional consumer product/brand, different in the sense that it is harder to market products associated with an underperforming team. Whereas on the positive side, it is much easier to market products/brands associated with a winning team. So when a team wins the league and cup double the marketing people at Kaizer Chiefs and Nike (kit sponsor) have to seize the opportunity and offer fan/supporters products aimed at tapping into the excitement generated by the on-field victories. The products have to be over and above the normal championship t-shirt and replica jersey. Full training range, dugout jackets, championship scarves are some of the items that should be made available at retail outlets.
There’s a rumour that the PSL might be changing season format from August-May to January-November to realign with African football calendar. I wonder if teams and their kit sponsors have taken this into marketing strategies because if the PSL revert back to African calendar it means football will be played during winter season meaning there will be a need for dugout jacket and official scarves to be made available to cater for winter demands.
Follow Mashilo Masemola on Twitter @Mashinzuri