Sports licensing industry bets big on U-17 football World Cup

Kolkata: India’s sports licensing industry is betting big on the upcoming Under-17 World Cup as the mega event is expected to benefit the sector by increasing and consolidating the soccer fan base, providing more opportunity to exploit brands, stakeholders said.

“Usually, it is during our school and college days that we are associated with sports. But most people remain in touch with sports by watching television coverage of national and international events.

“The Under-17 World Cup will bring the right spectators and trigger sporting activities at the school level in a bigger way. Such an enabling ecosystem will surely translate into more licensing opportunties,” License India Chairman Gaurav Marya told IANS.

He said the Indian Super League (ISL) will start after the (October 6-28) World Cup, ensuring five to six months of soccer action in the country.

“The longer duration of soccer action, similar to what happens in Europe and the US, will definitely consolidate the fan base, aiding the industry in more value creation,” Marya said.

According to US-based International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA) data, sports is one of the largest areas of licensing globally and generated $25.3 billion of retail sales, or 9.6 per cent of the overall $262.9 billion of global retail sales of licensed merchandise in 2016. In India, however, it plays a much smaller role.

“According to results of the LIMA Annual Global Licensing Survey, licensed sports products in India accounted for $18 million retail sales in 2016. The figure constitutes 1.3 per cent of the $1.4 billion sales of licenced goods in India in 2016,” LIMA’s Senior Vice President (Industry Relations and Information) Martin Brochstein told IANS in an e-mailed response.

He said assuming the continued growth of the licensing business overall, it is logical to assume that sports licensing will also grow, probably faster than the overall market.

“One of the drivers is a major event being held in the country, such as the Commonwealth Games or the U-17 World Cup. Events such as these generate sales of souvenirs within the host country. It’s important that it focuses attention on the sport and the event itself, helping to build a new generation of players and fans,” Brochstein said.

Brand licensing is basically renting the brand to an industry manufacturer or retailer. It is a legal process where a brand owner allows other businesses to use the brand for promoting their own products in the market. For instance, in the World Cup, FIFA or the participating teams are the licensors which can lend their respective brands to the licensees for coming up with souvenirs like, say, t-shirts.

According to Marya, in India, while cricket has the biggest draw, “football is far ahead of the curve on the licensing front”.

“European football leagues across EPL, La Liga and the Bundesliga have fuelled this penchant towards sports merchandise among the youth in India. Real Madrid, FIFA World Cup, Manchester United and FC Barcelona have sizable licensing programmes in India and many European league clubs are waiting to enter the market,” he said.

Echoing Marya, Chitra S. Johri, Director, Bradford License India, which works with over 80-odd brands, including Manchester City, said the foreign clubs, leagues and brands have well-charted licensing programmes.

“These foreign brands, which are very old, say 100 years, create aspirations among Indian consumers through their dynamic programmes. Big events like the World Cup will further boost the aspirations, which will aid not only the overseas brands but also help home-grown sports brands to monetise,” Johri told IANS.

Remaining bullish on the jumbo soccer event, Pankaj Sikka, Chief Visionary and Brand Strategist for Invision Brand Consulting, which manages the brand of IPL franchise Kolkata Knight Riders, said that, apart from cricket and football, other sporting leagues like kabaddi, tennis, hockey and wrestling are also helping the overall sports licensing industry to increase its length and breadth.

However, till now foreign sports brands have an edge over home-grown brands in India.

“The home-grown brands were unable to penetrate the domestic markets on expected lines because brand owners mix up sponsorship and licensing. Local teams or brands cannot differentiate between licences, which is a recurring business, and sponsorship, which is a source of quick money,” an expert told IANS on condition of anonymity.