Football drives merchandise fan mania

I was privileged to go and witness the merchandise operation of Glasgow-based promotional products supplier and bpma member, BIG in the UK, the exclusive on-site sales provider to the world’s biggest single-day sporting event, the UEFA Champions League Final. The 2016 final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, was held at the San Siro in Milan, Italy. The 80,000 crowd is provided with the best in terms of security, hospitality, experiential marketing and obviously official merchandising.

The merchandise effect spreads far beyond the match day experience, says Gordon Glenister

There were 18 stores across the stadium ranging from custom built units within VIP areas, to 10m and 20m branded temporary shops strategically placed at all the main entrances. BIG in the UK employs around 150 temporary staff and a team of experienced retail managers to manage the sites.

Brothers Ian and Alan Adie first supplied merchandising services to this occasion in 2002. That Glasgow final saw Zinedine Zidane, now Real Madrid manager, score the amazing winning goal. The 2016 final was the third time the brothers have worked with Real Madrid, who have won on each occasion.

Ian Adie, the oldest of the brothers said: “Confidentiality agreements forbid me from giving out commercially sensitive information, but I can tell you that the turnover over on that single day will be bigger than most T-shirt shops will do in a year.”

The operation is like a well-oiled machine, which it needs to be with stands ten deep with customers at times. It was certainly an unusual retail proposition – Italian staff serving German merchandising to a Spanish audience managed by a Scottish company. A true demonstration of European co-operation.

Ian has the enviable job of watching the game to confirm who has won and passing that information on to the stands so that they can remerchandise to focus on the winner’s collection. “With all the noise, emotion and distractions that the final whistle brings, it’s not quite as easy as it seems,” he said. “We don’t trust anyone but ourselves to do that.”

It was clear to see that customers want official merchandise and intense pre-planning ensured that there was little evidence of fake clothing. “The day after the match, it is fantastic seeing hundreds of fans wearing the T-shirts and polos that you sold, in the city and at the airport,” Ian added. “We’re clearly doing something right.”

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