Robert Andelman 2014-10-21 00:05:42
Merchandise and Promotions for Sports Events: A View from the Inside SPORTS EVENTS, whether they are NFL games, 5K races or league softball matches, have always been a popular place for logo merchandise. In fact, it’s completely unexpected that a person would go to, or participate in, an event and not come out with at least a T-shirt. The souvenir works as bragging rights – it tells the public a person was part of an event, and for the organizer, it has the additional benefit of keeping that event in front of people long after everyone has gone home. The interesting thing about being with a company that has been in the merchandising industry for over three decades is that you get to see a lot of changes. Some are influenced by fashion and some are a product of the economy. Consumer demand changes, and as a result, what companies – ours included – will offer, also changes. The T-shirt is Still the Favorite Souvenir Every once in a while, we’re asked if there is a hot new trend, meaning, of course, whether anything has knocked the T-shirt out of the top spot. In all these years, nothing has managed to do that. The T-shirt remains the staple. The reason is simple — everyone can always use a T-shirt. When you look at what you’re doing for branding and merchandising your event, you can see why. It’s such an easy way to get the message out there. For that reason, almost everyone loves to order shirts for their events. Of course, over the years, there have been changes within T-shirts. Women’s apparel is getting very stylish now, for example, and their shirts are coming in more colors and more designs than ever before. There are women’s burnout tees, shirts with rhinestones and more. There are junior cuts for younger women. Women also are starting to ask for shirts cut for them; not everyone wants to wear the unisex T-shirt. T-shirts in technical and performance fabrics (meaning sweat-wicking materials) are also becoming more popular, and especially for athletic events. The all-cotton shirt is still a good choice for the budget-conscious, though. In general, you’ll see cotton shirts for events like 5Ks or fun walks; longer races (particularly those where people pay a higher registration fee to enter) are more likely to offer technical fabric shirts. Shirts that are given out free, such as to volunteers, are often the unisex all-cotton shirts. Something we’re seeing more and more of is a digital printing process called sublimation. It’s used on technical fabrics, and it makes the shirt look much better and last much longer. It does not fade or bleed and can be used for all-over printing. As the demand grows for technical fabric T-shirts, we can expect to see sublimation grow in popularity as well. Hats and Other Apparel We periodically hear people say, “I want to do something different and offer something other than a T-shirt.” Recently, our company worked with the organizers of a triathlon who had that idea, so they worked with us to design a hat for all the participants. It was a great hat and really nice-looking, but as it turned out, everyone complained because they wanted a T-shirt instead. Apparently, the triathlon had been held every year, and people liked having a series of T-shirts, one for every year they had been in the race. The organizers will be going back to the shirts next year to keep people happy. Effects of the Recession The recession has changed what people buy for their events. We used to see companies putting their logo on a lot of things like sunscreen, lip balm and hand sanitizer, things that were given out at events like 5Ks and conventions. That has really dropped off because people are more money-conscious than they used to be. Sponsors have less in their promotional budgets than before and they don’t want to pay for tchotchkes that nobody is going to pay attention to. They’d rather put their money in something they think will last, meaning something that promotes their brand. Sponsor gifts have changed too. It used to be that if someone sponsored a golf tournament, the tournament organizers would order special recognition awards like a big engraved plate. These days, the organizers are likely to save money and have some T-shirts printed in a special color for the sponsors. Trophies, Medals and More When people finish a race or win a tournament, they like having their medal or their trophy. That hasn’t changed. Events seem to be moving away from acrylic awards, but they still like the crystal ones. Predictably, they want the best thing they can buy for the smallest amount of money. That’s probably not going to come as a surprise to anyone. The one thing we have noticed about medals, like the finisher medals handed out in marathons, is that people are starting to want them to be fancier. That has meant that they are being manufactured with built-in bottle openers, with spinning parts and in custom shapes and color combinations. Everyone likes something that looks unique. Trends in Merchandising Is there a hot new trend? Not really, or at least not from where we are. Within the last five to 10 years, there might have been a few new things here and there. Several years ago, everyone wanted to give away the extended life batteries for your phone. Different kinds of tote bags and string bags come and go; there will always be an updated version of the things people like. Sometimes, we’re asked whether people are interested in finding eco-friendly merchandise. It’s not a trend we’ve seen recently. It might be more popular in other sectors. Problems in Merchandising A big concern of the merchandising industry is the widespread problem of counterfeiting and bootlegging of logo products. The Internet has made things worse because it has become so easy for people who are unethical to download logos and images, and to start creating their own merchandise. You hear about foreign websites selling counterfeit logo merchandise like NFL jerseys, but it’s local too. Our company once designed a T-shirt for a high school football championship event, and the shirt design was featured on the event’s website to get folks excited about the design and to increase sales. When we got to the championships on the day of the event, we saw someone standing outside the stadium – not someone from our company – selling T-shirts with the same logo we had designed. Obviously, they had just copied it off the championship website and were trying to use it to make money for themselves. That was the last time we ever released a custom shirt logo in advance of an event. Finding the Right Partner A lot of times, people need merchandise for sports events that will be held outside their area. We encourage people not to use a company they’ve found randomly on the Internet, and with whom they have no experience. Instead, we advise going with a company with in-house design and production capabilities, which allows for more control over the job that needs to be done. That might mean working with someone locally and then having the order shipped to the city where the event is being held, or it might mean working with a company that is headquartered in the city where you’re going. Either way, you need a trustworthy partner who is able to help address anything that might go wrong, and get it fixed in time for the event. If you use good quality merchandise from a reputable partner, the souvenirs from your sports event will be kept around for a long time. T-shirts, hats and other items can help boost your brand and keep it fresh in people’s minds so that they’re ready to be a part of the next event you put on.
Published by Due North Consulting, Inc.. View All Articles.
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