World Cup Fever Hits Mailers

The 32-country World Cup soccer tournament, which ended June 30 with Brazil’s 2-0 victory over Germany, has been a boon for sales of soccer-related merchandise.

Vienna, VA-based cataloger Rugby and Soccer Supply, for one, saw sales jump 10%-15% in select categories, such as World Cup team jerseys, says president Matt Godek. The company, which mails its catalog four times a year, has annual sales of less than $5 million.

Similarly, Madison, WI-based soccer supplies cataloger Big Toe Sports enjoyed a 27%-33% increase in sales, says general manager Dan Nuthals.

“We had more enthused consumers jumping on the bandwagon for the latest products,” Nuthals says. “We’d planned for the World Cup to be big based on the amount of merchandise the manufacturers provided, and it was very positive for us.”

Big Toe Sports had two catalogs drops during the World Cup. The average order size rose from $205 to $243 for the first drop and $254 for the second. The company also ran a Web promotion offering 20% off all products until the U.S. team was eliminated.

That the U.S. squad made it to the quarter-finals — its best World Cup showing in 72 years — certainly helped, by generating a lot of interest even among casual fans. “The U.S. run really carried us,” Nuthals says.

Jim Noonan, director of marketing for Hillsborough, NC-based athletic gear cataloger Eurosport, reports that sales rose at his company as well. The increase in sales is “in line with what we expected from the world competition,” he says. Eurosport mails the Team Eurosport and Keepersport soccer products titles.

Noonan credits the boost in sales in part to the new products that manufacturers such as Adidas, Nike, and Puma unveiled to coincide with the World Cup. “We did see a correlation whenever the latest gear was shown on television,” he says. “Our customers called and wanted the same cleats they saw on TV, or they wanted the official FIFA [Federation International de Football Association] ball.”

But Rugby and Soccer Supply’s Godek says sales could have been more robust had manufacturers not counted out longshots. “None of the manufacturers saw a team like Turkey [which advanced to the semifinals and wound up taking third place] coming,” Godek says. “So when these teams advanced in the tournament, there was virtually no [logoed] merchandise available for them.”

Continuing the momentum

Although Wilmington, CA-based soccer supplies cataloger Sator Sports didn’t carry any World Cup merchandise, it nonetheless expects to benefit from the event. “More kids will be registered by youth leagues, which in turn buy from us,” explains catalog director Luis Burbarri.

Big Toe Sports is also looking ahead. It hopes that next year’s women’s World Cup, which will take place in China, will produce the same kind of sales boost. In the meantime, Nuthals says, Big Toe Sports will continue to feature U.S. players in its catalog pages.

As Godek says, “We’re likely to see the emergence of more American players, such as Landon Donovan, joining soccer icons such as Brazil’s Ronaldo, among the glamour athletes of the sport. That’ll be good for the U.S. marketplace.”
Additional reporting by Paul Miller

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