As The Sport’s Popularity Grows, So Does Merchandising
They are evident in the futbol-hungry favelas of Rio de Janeiro and the high-fashion streets of London. Their bright colors and stoic crests are part of couture, Japanese grunge fashion. They are also worn by the most resolute fans. They are a part of the sports’ religion.
Soccer jerseys have long been a staple of the international sport merchandise scene. According to www.about-soccer.com, the game is enjoyed by over 8 billion people, many of which support their favorite country, club team or player by purchasing a jersey.
When England plays, the faithful Barmy Army turns up in the hundreds, all wearing white and red jerseys with the names of Beckham, Owen and Rooney emblazoned across the shoulders. When the Netherlands play in Amsterdam, a sea of orange washes the stadium with the likes of Van Nistlerooy, Bergkamp and Kluivert, the country’s most prominent soccer stars. In the case of Brazil, it doesn’t take a match, or the World Cup. In fact, the sun-splashed yellow and green of the world’s pre-eminent soccer country have long been fundamental to the knowing fan. The greatest names, of course, are Pele, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.
“I’m an England fan,” explains Gavin Brentmen, a student from the University of Manchester in England. “I love the red and white of the team’s home strip. But there is something special about Brazil’s jersey.”
Although the game is wildly popular outside the United States, the sport itself and soccer’s merchandise is becoming increasingly popular within U.S. borders. The 1994 U.S. World Cup sparked a tremendous interest in the beautiful game, and a then young fan base has grown into consumer generation that loves the sport.
According to www.usyouthsoccer.org, the game is now the largest participatory sport among the country’s youth. In fact, in an article published in October on the website, it was recognized that 19 million children ages five-19 are now playing the game regularly on U.S. soil.
The result is a growing awareness of soccer merchandise. Much like baseball’s fitted caps and basketball sleeveless jerseys, soccer jerseys are catching on and are far more popular than in year’s past.
Champs Sports in Washington D.C.’s Pentagon City even sells nameless club and international soccer jerseys for upward of $59.00. The jerseys are popular in the nation’s capital and having a Major League Soccer team in the club D.C. United helps.
“People come in and order jerseys that we don’t have as well,” explains Lisa Baez, a worker at Champs in Pentagon City. “They do very well,” she concluded.
Derek Dickinson is a student at Howard University and occasionally orders jerseys for interested fans. He orders them directly from the manufacturing company and can get specifics like names, number and colors customized.
“When I first started, they weren’t too popular. It was mostly the international student population,” he admits. “Then they quickly were fashionable and I got a lot of orders from all walks of life.”
Now, soccer jerseys are becoming more common among sports fans and fashion-savvy consumers. As the sports’ popularity blossoms, so too will the visibility of the games’ most popular items of merchandise.