Sport Supply Changes the Rules of the Game

Since 1998, business-to-business cataloger Sport Supply Group (SSG) has spent more than $8.8 million upgrading its computer systems and Website. Now the Farmers Branch, TX-based cataloger, a subsidiary of electronics conglomerate Emerson Radio Corp., is looking to recoup its investments. So far this year, it has signed agreements with six athletic leagues and organizations to manage their online stores.

Among SSG’s newest clients are Fast Action Sports (flag football and basketball leagues), YouthSportsUSA.com (which hosts more than 31,000 leagues for junior athletes), and the U.S. Flag and Touch Football League. Mike Glassman, SSG’s vice president of sales and marketing, would not comment on the payment structures it arranges with clients, but the cataloger expects these contracts to generate more than $2 million in annual revenue. The $108.8 million cataloger, which markets its athletic supplies to schools, organizations, and institutions, lost $2.1 million for the year ended March 30.

For SSG, managing the clients’ online stores basically involves giving them access to its entire product line and allowing each client to tailor the product offerings for its particular niche. The online stores, which are linked to each client’s home page, are equipped with ordering, certificate redemption, and customer reporting and tracking capabilities.

“Our purpose has been to offer our leagues and participants a one-stop shop to meet all of their sport-playing needs,” says David Jackson, CEO of YouthSportsUSA.com, who praises “the technology, product development, and product assortment offered by Sport Supply.”

Prospecting on the cheap

Just as the arrangement enables clients such as YouthSportsUSA to sell products to its audience without having to build its own online store, it also introduces prospects to SSG.

“With YouthSportsUSA.com, for instance, we can reach more than 7 million children and other youth sports participants a lot easier and more cost-effectively than we could by catalog,” Glassman says. “The expense of mailing a catalog to 7 million people would be overwhelming. We could never reach that audience. Instead, we’ll encourage them to buy through the Website.”

In addition to selling online, SSG mails 25 versions of 11 catalogs, including U.S. Games, which sells physical-education supplies; League Direct, which targets youth leagues; and general sporting goods book BSN (for Blumenfeld Sports Network, the catalog’s former owner). All told, SSG’s annual circulation exceeds 1.5 million.

Glassman is quick to add that SSG’s catalogs are not going away. The catalogs “are still a major advertising vehicle for us, and they’re what puts our company in front of the institutions,” he says.

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