SBD/November 20, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

MLS Sporting K.C.'s Argyle-Styled Third Jerseys Double As Fashionwear, Draw Big Demand



Sporting K.C. sold more argyle items in '13 than all of its merchandise combined in '10
MLS Sporting K.C. released its argyle-patterned third jersey this April, and the hybrid kit that straddles the line between sportswear and fashionwear was such a hot seller, the club sold its projection for the year within two games. Sporting declined to reveal the precise number sold, but team VP/Stadium Revenues John Moncke said the figure was over 10,000 -- and that only long-sleeve versions remain until next season. The authentic jersey, which features a black top with an argyle strip near the chest and retailed for $120-150, was the centerpiece of a collection the franchise designed as part of its foray into fashion. Third jerseys have become commonplace in soccer during recent years as a way for clubs to either pay homage to the past or bypass traditional team colors to try something new. But Sporting came up with its dual-purpose jersey idea in conjunction with the club ethos it developed during rebranding in '11. As part of the change over from the Wizards, the club sought to reposition itself as a sort of all-encompassing lifestyle brand that represented the city of K.C. past the pitch. With that in mind, the team worked with kit sponsor adidas for nearly two years to develop a jersey that could just as easily be worn when going out on the town as when going to -- or playing in -- games. Moncke said, "The whole concept with third jerseys in soccer is to be different, and a big part of what we wanted to do is create something that would look good with denim. That might seem weird for a soccer jersey, but we know that the majority of people wearing a soccer jersey are not going to be playing soccer in it.”

HOW THE ARGYLE SOLD: The jersey’s popularity helped the club’s per caps at Sporting Park rise over 20% this season, making it one of the highest per caps in the league despite the city’s status as a medium-size market. The club's primary jersey, the only other new uniform Sporting released this season, sold just as well as the argyle kit. But the argyle collection, which has featured various items including hoodies, scarves, track tops and socks, was such a hot commodity, the club sold more of it in '13 than all the merchandise the club sold in '10 combined. Moncke said of the reason the club sold out of argyle items so quickly, “We took an approach to not flood the market with this stuff, so we’ve tried to keep some exclusivity. Each time we introduce a new item, for all intents and purposes, it sells out that match, and then we’ll introduce a new item. We probably could have exploited it for more sales, but just to keep our brand’s integrity, we kept the argyle a little bit exclusive.”

WHAT’S NEXT: Moncke, who indicated other MLS clubs have inquired about the idea of the argyle collection, said the black third jersey will definitely be back next year because the team uses two-year jersey cycles. Still, he would not reveal what the exact plan was for after that. The club is still planning to release new argyle-patterned products, and Moncke added, "You can expect to see more really cool interpretations of that argyle pattern on merchandise over the next year."
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