CPLG Sport began working with West Ham at the end of 2006, and before then there was little, if any, licensing in place for the club. Now, there are over 35 partners on board, across categories as varied as apparel, footwear, gifts, souvenirs, publishing, sporting goods, stationery and accessories.
As you might expect, fanwear remains the best selling items, including baseball caps and bags, with an uplift in hats and scarves expected as we move into autumn. Outside of this, bedding and towels are also popular purchases. Next up for CPLGS is a potential expansion into the toys and games sector.
“There are two main things that present a challenge when presenting any football team brand to potential licensees,” explains commercial manager, Gary Jacobson. “The first is on field performance; if the club is playing poorly then this is reflected in the sale of licensed goods. The second is the regional nature of football support – although there are West Ham fans across the country, obviously the club’s core support base is in London and the South East, where licensed product will sell much better than elsewhere in the country. Although retailers are becoming much more aware of the benefits of localising distribution for sports brands.”
West Ham manages the retail programme at the club, while Jacobson’s strategy is to focus on getting licensed product into general retail. “We have developed a good base in the UK marketplace and are continuing to expand into new channels,” he says. “As an indicator of the demand for West Ham, the club’s online store partner is Kitbag, which manages the online stores for many top sports brands including Manchester United, Chelsea, Formula 1 and Wimbledon. They say that West Ham is consistently in their top three best performing platforms.”
As well as at the club and online, merchandise is available across the High Street in stores such as HMV, John Lewis and Clinton Cards, plus sports shops and major grocers.
Jacobson is also keen to expand the brand outside of the UK. “Of course, the majority of sales [of licensed product] come from the UK, but West Ham does have a strong international following that is helped by the Premier League’s huge popularity overseas,” he continues. “We went to Hong Kong because the Far East is a target market for us. It was the first time a Premier League club had been represented there and we generated some really exciting opportunities.”
Despite the recession, Jacobson says that the licensing programme for West Ham has still expanded, and by the end of 2010 he is expecting it to be a lot stronger than 12 months previously.
And in five years’ time? “We want to grow along with the increasing popularity of the Premier League and strengthen the brand’s position both in the UK retail market and abroad,” Jacobson adds. “We want to really strengthen the individual West Ham United brand, concentrating on the club’s rich heritage and its status as the Academy of Football.”