Prasana’s interview with HBL on the FC Shop launch

September 22, 2020

Why are we not wearing the game?

The global sales revenue of licensed merchandise and services was a whopping $292.8 billion in 2019. Of this, sports merchandise was only the fourth highest, accounting for 10 per cent or $28.9 billion, according to a global survey by Licensing International. The biggest share (43.8 per cent) was taken by the entertainment industry.

In India, the sports merchandise market is really nascent — registering sales revenue of barely $18 million or so. Although every IPL franchise has been pushing merchandise including T-shirts, key chains, caps and so on, none of them has really set the market on fire. IPL’s 13th edition now brings an additional challenge in selling merchandise as fans won’t be in the stadium but at home, watching the matches — less incentive to wear the colours.

This year, multi sport aggregator platform FanCode, owned by Dream Sports, which also owns Dream 11, the new sponsors of IPL, has entered the merchandise fray. The FanCode Shop has kicked off with official licensed merchandise of six IPL teams — Delhi Capitals, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan Royals, and Kings XI Punjab. Prasana Krishnan, Co-Founder of FanCode, on why they are pushing the merchandise and more:

What has spurred FanCode’s entry into merchandise?

FanCode wants to be a sports destination for all fans. We had been taking care of the content requirement till now. Now we are following up with commerce. We have been looking at engaging fans more actively. If you are an IPL fan and coming to us for news, data, articles, why not stay on for additional things? At over 15 million app downloads, the platform itself has reach and access and is a very strong ecosystem to connect with sports brands.

Unlike football leagues globally, IPL merchandise has not really done well, one of the challenges being it is a very seasonal event. Will you be able to make a difference?

Although IPL may not be a year-long engagement, it does not take away from the kind of impact, reach, buzz and interest it generates among fans. Nearly half a billion tune in to the IPL every year. Has merchandising been done at scale properly? Not really. We believe there is a market, but there are also challenges. At the same time there is clearly an opportunity to do it right.

Fan merchandise as a category is big business globally. In the Indian context there are various reasons for not succeeding. One of the factors is the lack of availability of mass market merchandise. At the top end there is official merchandise that is priced very high and out of the reach of many fans. At the other end, there are poor-quality fakes.

So are you going to plug this gap?

That is the primary objective. To make available affordable authentic merchandise that caters and appeals to the mass market.

The other challenge that has been cited is that IPL franchises have not been able to attract the same loyalty that, say, a Manchester United or Chelsea have. Teams keep changing. Without a loyal fan base, how can merchandise sell?

I agree that in the first few years of the IPL there was a fluidity in the teams. But now the teams are fairly stable. Also, when it comes to loyalty, there is often the football comparison. But football loyalties have been built over a long time. IPL is still relatively young. We believe a market exists even though it is not yet fully developed.