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October/November 2010

FIFA World Cup:

A legacy for boot sales?

After years of preparation and exciting build-up, the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup finally graced South Africa’s shores. But while the tourism sector has made tremendous gains thanks to the World Cup, most retailers did not.

But what about the retailers directly involved in the soccer market, by for example selling soccer boots? Did all the attention and hype around soccer at least have a positive impact on the actual sale of boots?

While the bright spotlight on soccer the past four years has grown the soccer market, and hence boot and apparel sales, the World Cup itself had no major impact on the number of soccer boots sold, Imtiaz Karodia of Solly M Sports in Durban summarises the experience of most soccer retailers Sports Trader contacted.

Sales figures from the stores tracked by GfK Marketing Services*, however show that retailers could well reap future benefits. While soccer boot sales during the first six months had been disappointing (between 1% and 9% down from the same period the year before), post-World Cup sales are picking up. This year in July (11% growth) and in August (26% growth) significantly more pairs of soccer boots were sold than in July and August 2009.

Despite the average selling price of the top boot brands — adidas, Nike and to a lesser extent Puma — dropping dramatically during this year (see p28) the Rand value of soccer boot sales were 5% (July 2010) and 25% (August) higher than in the corresponding months in 2009.

If this trend continues, the World Cup would indeed have left a good legacy for soccer retailers!

Coloured boots

The marketing campaigns by some boot brands during this period contributed to an increase in sales for those specific brands, says Mervin Naidoo of Poobie Naidoo’s Sports, who cites Nike as an example with regard to the marketing campaign behind their coloured boots.

There is definitely a bigger demand for the bright coloured boots as seen on many of the players during the World Cup period, agrees Lambros Koutsoudis of Footballer & Sport in Port Elizabeth.

“The biggest interest was in the orange Nike boots that the players wore, but only the knock-down version was available in our stores, so no major sales were generated,” says Dirk Klopper of Kloppers in Bloemfontein.

Impact of World Cup Heroes

Every World Cup has its own stars of the tournament, and the one hosted in SA was no exception. New stars who rose to the fore include the likes of Germany’s Thomas Muller (adidas), who was judged to be the Golden Boot Player/Best Young Player, Uruguay’s Diego Forlan (adidas), the Golden Ball winner, Spain’s David Villa (adidas), who received the Golden Boot and Golden Ball runner-up and the Netherlands’ Wesley Sneijder (Nike) who also received the Golden Boot and Golden Ball runner-up.

The question arises as to whether local soccer boot buyers now want to purchase the boots of these stars?

“Generally soccer boot buyers like to buy what the top players are wearing,” says a spokesperson from the Rashid Cassim Megastore, who also found that the colours of players’ boots affected sales.

“There definitely has been an increased awareness and also some demand for boot replicas worn by the superstars,” agrees Mike Augoustides of Mike’s Sports in Cape Town, adding that it is still difficult to judge as their main boot selling period is usually from February to June.

Local soccer boot buyers are now more aware of the international players who were the World Cup stars, maintains Koutsoudis. Naidoo agrees. “The World Cup has made a huge impact on the youth and a lot of youngsters now speak among themselves about these stars, and want boots worn by their favourite footballers.”

But, the boot buying patterns among real soccer lovers were not really influenced by the World Cup stars, maintains Keith McLaren of Planet Sport in Kimberley. These customers still want the boots of the pre- and post-World Cup stars as well.

Various players who did not perform well in the World Cup remain popular as a result of their much-watched soccer commitments in the Champions League, Premiere League, etc. These include the likes of FIFA’s 2009 Player of the Year Lionel Messi (adidas), Real Madrid’s Kaka (adidas) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Nike), Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney (Nike), Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard (adidas), Inter’s Samuel Eto’o (Puma) and South Africa’s very own Steven Pienaar (adidas).

“The boots of customers’ favourite players like Ronaldo and Messi are still high in demand,” says Karodia. “These players still have their fans and they cannot be labelled bad players all of a sudden,” adds Koutsoudis. “There will always be a demand for the boots that they use.” Augoustides agrees. “Even the guys who did not perform in the World Cup still have die hard fanatical fans!”

If one is world-class, one is world-class! “The youth come into the store wanting boots that their favourite stars are wearing because they aspire to be like them and by wearing their favourite football stars’ boots it brings them one step closer to attaining their dreams,” Naidoo explains.

Affordability

But, can the average SA soccer player afford these boots worn by the stars?

Apart from the original top end boots as worn by the players, there are also cheaper replicas of these boots available. “These take-down versions of the expensive boots tend to sell well,” Koutsoudis found.

Naidoo agrees. “So even though the boots that the football stars wear are expensive, there are still cheaper versions of the boots available at a cheaper price so that customers that cannot afford the most expensive boot can still wear a replica of their footballs stars boots.”

Brand loyalty plays a role in the customer’s decision as to which soccer boots to buy — up to a point. “Consumers will purchase their favourite brand because they are brand loyal,” says Naidoo. “But if the price is too high, some customers might not perceive it as getting value for money.”

“If the price is too excessive in one brand, then customers tend to look at other brands that might offer a better price,” says Koutsoudis. “Most of the top brands have sponsored stars and there is competition to remain competitive, as well as to try and outdo the opposition.”

Many customers are also loyal to the brands of their favourite teams, for example an Orlando Pirates supporter will generally buy an adidas boot, believes Karodia. Although in volume, their own entry-level Fury boot still out-sells the top brands, he adds.

Future sales

The big question is now how long the bigger interest in soccer will last — and most importantly, if it will continue to generate increased sales. “The World Cup was an awesome event and we will see a big growth in players and supporters, especially in the schoolboy sector of soccer,” believes Augoustides.

“I am sure that future demand for new boots will be enhanced due to the consumer having been made more aware because of the World Cup,” adds Koutsoudis.

* GfK Marketing Services tracks SA retail sales of sportshoes at no cost to retailers. See www.gfk.co.za.


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