Indian sports licensing moving beyond cricket
Indian sports licensing moving beyond cricket

The isolated roads, all eyes glued to TV and stadium chanting “Sachin, Sachin” are a testimony to India’s penchant towards sports, particularly cricket. However, the same is yet to resonate in terms of sales of sports licensed merchandise. For a nation as diverse as India, the fan market for sportsmen has been lucrative since always - the sport and team popularity driving media attention, which further channelizes the tie ups between sportsmen and the various leagues; it all deciphers into substantial consumer interest thus indicating the mammoth unlocked potential. Stated as the second biggest category in licensing industry globally, sports licensing is believed to reach US$ 48.17 bn by 2024, expanding at a CAGR of 6.4% from 2016 to 2024, which has been valued at US$ 24.9 billion in 2016 (as per Transparency Market Research). The growth has been spurred by the spread of many of Europe’s leading sport organizations’ licensing programmes into India, credits to the growing consumer base exposed to the global content. Sports as a genre of licensing contributed to US$18 million to the retail sales of licensed merchandise in year 2016. And royalties worth US$ 1.10 million were generated from the licensed merchandise in year 2016.

The Indian story: a lot more than cricket and sneakers Advent of sports leagues such as IPL and Pro-kabaddi League has restructured the industry scenario in the country. Football clubs have found their mainstay in India; WWE has launched its online shop with the Souled Store; and sports like basketball are also being looked upon as an IP worth investing. This is evident with The National Basketball Association (NBA) announcing the launch of NBA Basketball School in Mumbai, and its apparel are available at 600 plus retail points across the country. In words of NBA India’s Managing Director Yannick Colaco, “Digital content has already revolutionized the licensing industry, particularly sports licensing, which has seen a shift in consumption pattern due to advent of live sports.” According to Aashay Shah, Founder and CEO,, soccer merchandise has high retail value in India, and in times to come, it will be at par with cricket. In his words, “If cricket is the game of father, football is the game of the son. With constant time crunch, people don’t have patience to sit throughout the cricket matches and that is one of the reasons for 20-20 formats. Also football has big followers in Kolkata, Kerala, and Mumbai.

Right now football is second to cricket, but in times to come, it will be at par with cricket.” While the global licensed sports merchandise market is obsessed with by innovation and development of more attractive and stylish sports apparel, and other product varieties, the Indian market is gradually moving beyond sneakers. In words of Pankaj Sikka, Founder, Chief Visionary and Brand Strategist, Invision Brand Consulting, “In terms of consumption patterns in this space, we have moved away from the ‘sports = sneakers’ mindset. Changing lifestyles, penchant for fitness, the uptake of Marathons and Tennis Leagues etc. have opened up huge niche segments across Active wear and League merchandise right from T-shirts, bags, stationary, tech accessories etc.

The market is also significantly influenced by the improved economic conditions across developing economies such as India and China, owing to which, sports lovers are spending lavishly on licensed sports merchandise. Licensed merchandise across the sports leagues / teams / brands is a small but growing revenue earner. The fans today love to dress up as their favorite teams / players and thus we see the maximum traction coming across the fashion and fashion accessories space. Of cource considering that fans come across all the spectrum of the society, mass price points are always doing well specially in the fashion category. The growing of retail points through e-retail has opened an avenue of higher price points as well as niche category but high defined quality products.

The way forward… In words of Bhavik Vora, Founder & CEO, Black White Orange Brands, “Cricket is a religion here, but merchandise programs of popular league teams have not seen much success (except for team jerseys on match days – also hugely pirated) compared to top teams of International football leagues. If authorities and team owners focus on this aspect of the brand, this is an area waiting to explode.” For sports brands to get into licensing, it’s important that they choose the right partner, a partner who shall not only help in creating the right licensing program but also work closely with the brand team to indentify and launch the licensed merchandise.

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