Sports merchandising in India seems to be finally coming of age. Leading brewer United Breweries (UB) is formally teaming up with Reebok India to market souvenirs and memorabilia related to soccer.
UB is sponsors to two leading soccer clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in India through two of its flagship brands McDowell and Kingfisher respectively.
To begin with, UB has started with East Bengal Club. Reebok which is the kit sponsor to the club has come out with EB jersey with Kingfisher written on it.
Reebok is taking this up as a commercial venture, while UB’s interest will be limited to brand promotion.
“We will not earn anything from this venture except it will promote our brand as well as the club. In future, we will also roll out caps, balls, wrist bands, socks and many more stuff,” Ramesh Viswanathan, general manager (marketing) of UB’s breweries division, said.
These items will now be available Reebok stores. The jersey will also be sold at venues where National Football League (NFL) matches for EB will be held.
“It is still very early days for sports merchandising to become a stand alone business proposition as it happened in the west. But signs are promising and this is a modest step taken by two companies,” he noted.
Products as well as their pricing will be important for merchandising. A Manchester United jersey may fetch 40 pounds (Rs 3,000) in UK but Reebok has priced EB jersey only at Rs 299. The socio-economic aspect of the game has to be kept in mind, he noted.
Viswanathan pointed out that UB as a group was betting big time on soccer. The decision may raise few eyebrows since cricket would have been the most natural choice for any brand endorsement in India.
Moreover, it had sponsored West Indies cricket team. Sourav Ganguly and Ajay Jadeja also had endorsed Kingfisher brand.
“Cricketers are over exposed to many brands. So we will steer away from cricket. We believe soccer has great potential and it is coming of age with national and club teams making their presence felt in international arena. We will continue to focus on soccer,” he added.