In a candid conversation with Retailer, Mike Cox, Director of Merchandising at Liverpool Football Club, discusses the huge potential for sports’ licensing in India, and the need to look beyond cricket.
Kindly throw light on the brand, Liverpool, and its legacy across the globe?
Liverpool Football Club (FC) is a globally renowned football club and sporting brand founded in 1892. We are the most successful team in the Premier League, with 41 major trophies. We play our home games at Anfield Stadium, including the world famous Spion Kop Stand. The team work towards our anthem – “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
The ‘Liverpool Way’ is our “Club Culture”, based on unity, dignity, commitment and ambition, and this is how we operate and act on a daily basis, setting us apart from other sporting clubs. We are the world’s greatest football family, with 588 million fans, worldwide.
How are you growing your licensing and merchandising activities, globally? What are your India specific initiatives for the same?
We have 163 licensees worldwide, with a mixture of localised and international licensees, along with some brand collaborations.
Liverpool FC has localised social media in 18 countries and 14 languages, we also operate localised retail in China, with stores launching in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore in 2014.
We were the first Premier League club to launch on Chinese social media sites – ‘Sina Weibo’ and ‘Tencent’ and on Russia’s largest social media site – VK. We also have localised websites for Indonesia, Thailand and a Chinese language website will be launched in 2014.
What is your take on current sports’ licensing market in India? Do you see this market looking beyond Cricket? What are your licensing strategies here?
Football or Soccer as most international markets tend to call it, is a fast growing sport in India, with the launch of the new football championship. This is the first tournament of its kind, which has been approved by FIFA.
Some 49 foreign players have been drafted for the three-month tournament, including ex-Manchester United midfielder Bojan Djordjic, former Newcastle United striker Michael Chopra, former Juventus striker David Trezeguet and former Arsenal winger Fredrik Ljungberg.
We have also recently opened an official International Soccer School in India, which has not only enhanced Liverpool FC brand image, but also Soccer in general. Both of which have increased the exposure and investment opportunities through licensing and also by becoming official merchandise partners by investing in both brick and mortar stores and on online platform.
Kindly, list out your exclusive licensees in India? What were the major challenges while working with local licensees here?
We work with Bradford License www.bradfordlicenseindia.com in India, which has helped us over a number of barriers to execute licenses within the Apparel, Footwear, Notepads and Toiletries categories.
Highlight your criterion to select your local licensee?
We work with Bradford to put together a proposal to recommend the right licensee for a specific category. We look at the licensees’ current portfolio and track record, along with their distribution channels.
Throw light upon your current product categories that you have explored so far, and which is your most successful property here?
So far, the apparel category has been a successful story, we have appointed Pure Play/ Optima as our partner, and they have made significant headway within the online retail sector.
What new categories and products are you planning to explore in near future?
We have a number of exciting proposals on the table that will help to bring products to the market and help our loyal but growing fan base have the opportunity to purchase official product.
Who do you see as your competition in Indian market?
Football fans are loyal to their chosen team and to that extent, we don’t see those clubs as rivals (off the pitch), however, we do enjoy taking market share from the other top European teams, we also consider them as a global brand.
It is important to engage with current fans, and also, bring new fans into the Liverpool FC family, so its key we engage with those fans through various social media platforms, along with ensuring that we have a brand presence within the retail market.
Kindly throw light on your marketing and pricing strategies to connect with more consumers here?
We take each market individually, and as such, we engage all areas of our club from Merchandising, Partnership, Soccer Schools and the Liverpool FC Foundation, which does great work all over the world.
How do you plan to leverage from the emerging eCommerce market in India?
We have seen significant growth through our own online store, which ships over 200k parcels to over 169 countries. In key markets, we are appointing an official online partner, and as the Indian market grows, we will assess the opportunity of appointing one.