SBJ/July 11-17, 2011/Facilities

Gameday hits the road for World Football Challenge retail

Don Muret
The 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge is expected to generate between $3 million and $4 million in gross merchandise sales, according to officials with Soccer United Marketing, the marketing arm of Major League Soccer.

Co-promoters SUM and CAA Sports hired Gameday Merchandising to coordinate the three-week event’s retail operation at the 14 North American stadiums playing host to matches.

The World Football Challenge involves eight international teams and five MLS clubs. FC Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid, three of the biggest global brands in soccer, all play three matches in the competition. The FC Barcelona-Man U contest July 30, a rematch of their May 28 UEFA Champions League final, is expected to draw 90,000 fans at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

Under the terms of its deal with SUM and CAA Sports, Gameday will send 14 full-time staffers on the road to combine forces with most stadiums’ on-site concessionaires to sell World Football Challenge merchandise at the venues. At FedEx Field, for example, Gameday personnel will work with employees of MainGate, the Redskins’ retail provider.

Outside the stadiums, Gameday will have a portable trailer selling jerseys, scarves, T-shirts and other items. The exteriors of those two trailers, traveling separately for most of the tour, will be wrapped in the Man U and FC Barcelona brands. The trailers are scheduled to converge Aug. 6 for the final match, FC Barcelona-Club America at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Adidas, official retail provider for Major League Soccer, also receives brand exposure on those mobile units.

Gameday’s strategy is to sell World Football Challenge items for the suggested manufacturer’s retail price, keeping its markup low and making up the difference on volume, said Gameday President Alan Fey. Jerseys will cost $80 to $85, the same price a consumer would pay at a sporting goods store. Team scarves will sell for $22 to $30 depending on the royalties Gameday pays the clubs.

The jerseys should drive sales because several international teams launched their new uniforms for the summer and will be wearing them for the first time during the World Football Challenge, Fey said.

The first match is Wednesday, when Manchester United takes on the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

In addition to the World Football Challenge, Gameday will sell Manchester United merchandise exclusively for the Man U-Seattle Sounders game July 20 at CenturyLink Field and the MLS All-Star Game July 27 at Red Bull Arena, where Man U is the opponent.

Denver-based Gameday worked the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China. The company operates retail for two MLS teams, the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps. In 2008, Gameday principals Fey and Jeff Newman managed retail for two FC Barcelona games in Chicago and New York when both were with a different company.

DIMENSIONAL INNOVATIONS
The image of a tiger directs a visitor’s attention to the interactive media wall at the Missouri Athletic Training complex.
TIGER’S TALE:
The new interactive media wall inside the Missouri Athletic Training Complex provides a cutting-edge recruiting tool for the school’s athletics programs. The technology behind it is where the future lies for interactive displays in general for sports facilities, according to its developer.

The wall, produced by Dimensional Innovations and Populous, is powered by dynamic motion technology. When an athlete or coach walks by the display, sensors kick in and the image of a roaring tiger appears as if it is stalking its prey, its breath forming a cloud of condensation on the screen.

The idea behind the tiger, Missouri athletics’ mascot, is to encourage the individual to stop at the wall and touch the display to interact with its content. A series of drop-down menus provides current rosters, record holders and all-Americans tied to each of the school’s 21 varsity sports. Another menu provides highlights of Missouri football’s bowl games for visitors coming through the complex on game days, said Justin Wood, vice president of business development for Dimensional Innovations.

For recruiting, the video wall provides a conversation starter for teenagers already accustomed to using digital tablets and smartphones and “need something cooler than that” to keep their attention, Wood said.

“That’s where this was born,” he said. “It’s like a gigantic iPad. What we have found is that athletes use it every day.”

The technology is similar to dynamic motion displays Dimensional Innovations and Populous teamed up to design for Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh and Sprint Center in Kansas City.

In Columbia, Mo., the media wall is updated regularly to provide a reason for athletes, coaches, football operations personnel and academic advisers to keep going back to engage with the display, Wood said. If a new bench press record is set, for example, or there is a great practice in the eyes of a coach, that information and video can be inserted into the display. In the eyes of the recruit, nonrevenue sports get important exposure on the screen, Wood said.

The cost to install those displays ranges from $100,000 to $300,000 depending on the size of the screen, content and the sophistication of the animation. Missouri’s display measures 4.5 feet tall and 15 feet wide.

“It is a very unusual way to tell stories in a compact space,” Wood said.

NEVER TOO EARLY: Amway Center’s Allen Johnson is already talking with agents and promoters to see how he can fill dates if games are canceled because of the NBA lockout.

One possibility: developing a concert package with two B-level acts into a lineup strong enough to play Amway Center. By doing so, “you can start making a B show into more of an A show,” said Johnson, executive director of the Magic’s arena.

Timing is key. The NBA typically releases its schedule in August. If league officials were to cancel games one month at a time, it would be difficult to book a new show on short notice.

Promoters “are not oblivious to what is going on, but at the same time they can’t do miracles,” Johnson said.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter@BreakGround.

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