SBJ/January 7 - 13, 2002/Marketingsponsorship

Bears sign partner to boost retail

The Chicago Bears have teamed with Buffalo-based Sportservice to beef up the club's merchandise business, and the cornerstone of that partnership will be two new Bears retail stores at the new Soldier Field. Both the stadium and the Bears stores are scheduled to open in time for the 2003 season.

The new Bears-Sportservice partnership plans a major push to boost sales of Bears merchandise through the Internet, catalogs and direct marketing, said Dave Greeley, chief marketing officer for the team.

Greeley said the Soldier Field stores — a 3,000-square-foot shop and an 800-square-foot shop — would be the hub for the new, aggressive merchandising effort.

Under terms of the Bears' stadium lease agreement with the Chicago Park District, the team gets none of the revenue generated by the existing stadium retail store, now handled by Touchdown Sports. That will change at the new Soldier Field, where the Bears and Sportservice will share all revenue from Bears merchandise.

Greeley said he expects that within a few years the Bears' merchandise business will deliver the club seven figures a year in net revenue.

Besides the new Soldier Field stores, the two parties plan to build a Bears shop at the team's summer training camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., about 80 miles from downtown Chicago.

Starting with the 2003 season, look for Bears merchandise-hawking trailers and portable carts on the grounds of the new Soldier Field. The mobile trailers also will travel to Bears-themed events.

Next season, the club will station trailers at the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium in Champaign, where the Bears will play home games while the new Soldier Field is under construction.

Eventually, the Bears-Sportservice partnership might opt to set up temporary kiosks at Chicago-area malls.

The larger Bears store at Soldier Field will be in the parking garage adjacent to the stadium. Scheduled to be open year-round, the store will be one of the stops on the public tours of the new stadium, a move that should help drive sales.

The other shop is slated to be built on the club lounge level of the new stadium.

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