IPL Fever: PlayR Scores Big in Sports Merch Sales
IPL Fever: PlayR Scores Big in Sports Merch Sales

Sports merchandising in India is growing at a tremendous pace; in fact, it is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world. PlayR, a sports and lifestyle brand, grew by 100 percent and sold over 100,000 Indian Premier League (IPL) fan merchandise items during the ongoing season. PlayR has partnered with multiple IPL franchises in India as their official merchandise partner.

A recent report by Maximize Market Research valued the country’s sports merchandising market at USD 673.34 million in 2022 and estimated it will reach USD 1926.10 million by 2029, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 16.2% from 2023 to 2029. PlayR is an official merchandise partner for the Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals, Punjab Kings, and Kolkata Knight Riders.

Sports Merch in Demand

In an interview with IndianRetailer.com, Ravi Kukreja, Co-founder and Director of PlayR, discussed the growth of sports merchandising in India and integrating Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the licensing and merchandising space to enhance customer experiences and streamline processes.

Elaborating on the demand for sports merchandise in India, Kukreja said, “India’s sports merchandise market is undergoing significant changes. The growing partnership between global sports brands and Indian businesses offers Indian customers access to a greater selection of foreign goods, which is incredible. The sector is greatly impacted by e-commerce, as fans can now easily purchase legitimate sports products through online channels.”

Kukreja continued, “The demand for items related to local sports leagues like the Pro Kabaddi League and the Indian Premier League (IPL) is also increasing due to their popularity. Overall, these patterns show that India's sports merchandising market is dynamic and evolving due to both customer preferences and technological advancements.”

Licensing Deals and Collaborations

PlayR began its partnership journey with Mumbai Indians International Sales Merchandising in 2022, progressing to partnerships with CSK, MI, RR, and PBKS in 2023. Currently, it is the official merchandise partner for CSK, MI, RR, PBKS, and KKR from 2024 onwards.

Discussing the successful collaborations, Kukreja said, “Each team has a robust fan following. Our endeavor is to cater to each and every fan. The fan following is directly proportional to the number of title wins each team has, and the revenue generation is directly proportional to the title wins.”

Kukreja added, “IPL’s enormous popularity and growing fan involvement in sports like football and kabaddi are the main causes of this upsurge. A growing sports culture is evident in the increasing purchases of official items by Indian fans, which range from jerseys to accessories. Prominent sports leagues such as the NFL, NBA, and Premier League are important suppliers, providing a wide range of merchandise such as clothing and digital products.”

AR, VR, and AI Integration

Brands are using Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the licensing and merchandising space to enhance customer experiences and streamline processes.

Elaborating on the use of AR, VR, and AI by brands for merchandising, Kukreja said, “By enabling users to see things on their smartphones in their actual environments, augmented reality (AR) improves consumer engagement with products. VR generates immersive experiences that can be used in virtual stores or marketing efforts. To strengthen their bond with the company, customers can take part in branded activities or peruse a virtual showroom of goods.

He further explained, “AI makes product recommendations based on user preferences by analyzing consumer data to personalize the experience. Instant customer support is offered by chatbots and virtual assistants, increasing client satisfaction. AI also improves inventory control by forecasting demand patterns to ensure that in-demand goods are consistently available.”

Facing Challenges

The licensing and merchandising (L&M) industry today faces a major challenge of counterfeiting in India. To tackle such illicit distribution of licensed and original products, multiple brands are utilizing cutting-edge technologies such as Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, holograms, and QR codes to confirm the legitimacy of goods. With the use of these technologies, customers can quickly verify the authenticity of their purchases.

Apart from counterfeiting, Kukreja states other challenges for sports merchandisers, such as the difficulty in the teams' and sports' cyclical appeal. Kukreja says, “Sales of merchandise are frequently correlated with the success and notoriety of sportsmen and sports teams, which can cause erratic demand and inventory problems.”

He added, “Another major obstacle is distribution logistics, particularly in a vast and diverse country like India. It can be difficult and expensive to guarantee timely and effective distribution across different regions. Challenges also include pricing and customer preferences, which require continuous innovation to satisfy the growing demands of consumers.”

Growing Exponentially

According to the Industry Outlook 2023 Report, the sports merchandising sector is a major player in the global market, with a projected valuation of USD 30,211.41 million in 2022 and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.03% to reach USD 50,739.56 million by 2028.

Talking about PlayR’s growth journey, Kukreja said, “We have grown our profit by 100% YoY. Our strategic alliances with five of the biggest IPL teams, Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals, Punjab Kings, and Kolkata Knight Riders resulted in exclusive, cross-border retail offerings that were key to our growth.”

Kukreja continued, “Furthermore, PlayR's partnership with Adidas as a channel partner helped elevate the brand in the sportswear and accessories industry. We have sold over 100,000 IPL official merchandise items this season, and the demand for jerseys and fan gear has increased significantly. The company's ability to reach and connect with a wide range of customers was made possible by its proficiency in e-commerce and presence on multiple multi-brand online platforms.”

He concluded, “We are also innovating with our clothing line, superior sports equipment, and a wide selection of accessories, which enables our clients to embrace their uniqueness and show off their originality. With this philosophy at its heart, PlayR is set to push the limits of sports apparel and fashion in the years to come.”

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