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The World Cup – domestic sales opportunities

It’s not just suppliers of St George’s car flags who are limbering up for a busy summer. Publishers and retailers are also expecting a footie-fuelled sales bonanza. David Stam looks at publishers’ plans and expectations.

By David Stam

Argentina, Brazil, Spain, England... bookies have been lining up for weeks now to take punters’ cash on who will win the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted by South Africa. But, alongside the team on the champion’s podium on July 11th will be those UK publishers who have planned and targeted the event for product innovation and increased sales.

This year’s event will be staged and televised from a time-zone that makes late afternoon and evening viewing attractive and from a country with strong ties to the UK. Pundits even reckon England has a chance of winning! So, what are the opportunities for increased sales?

Bumper issues

Once the first game kicks off on June 11th, broadcast, new media and newspapers will be at the cutting edge of reportage and analysis – but in the all-important run up, magazine and collectable publishers will capitalise on expectation, build-up and preview. IPC Media’s World Soccer is the doyen of footie titles, with world news, serious analysis and international rankings. The title is celebrating both its 50th anniversary year and the tournament by publishing a bumper summer issue on sale 7th May for six weeks. Coverage will be heightened by a £4.50 one-shot on sale 23rd April. The title will be supported on each wing by younger and more laddish team mates Nuts and Loaded with joint promotions to boost sales during the tournament. Loaded’s July issue will be a World Cup special. In particular, this is good news for hard-pressed independent retailers. They are key to growing sales in this male-dominated sector and IPC have targeted over 600 key newsagents for a series of themed mailshots.


A range of one-shots will maximise what will hopefully become a wave of support for England. There is a raft of consumer choice. Out of the tunnel early in April, to capture the Easter holidays, were Dennis Publishing’s Ultimate World Cup and a WHS exclusive, World Cup Superstars 2010. Northern & Shell will leverage the editorial prowess and distribution muscle of the Daily Express with the Daily Express World Cup Magazine, on sale for £2.95. Heavily promoted in sister titles the Express and Star, this one-shot will also include a tournament wallchart. Come On England is published by Sports Media at £4.99 and will differentiate in the market by its celebration of past England teams and performance. By making extensive use of the Mirror’s sport archive, the title will appeal to an older audience nostalgic for former glories. Match of the Day regulars will also be interested to see Gary Lineker’s Guide To The World Cup at £4.50 – distributor COMAG Specialist claim that the 2006 equivalent was the best selling 2006 World Cup one-shot.

COMAG Specialist’s Phil Whitlam points to strong support from retailers for good-quality World Cup titles particularly from independent, high street and multiple newsagents. If England do well in the tournament – or indeed win – there will be publishers ready to take advantage with quick-to-market offerings and that will bring more retailers on side. Research for this article endorses this. Written mid Easter holidays, two months before kick off, there is no shortage of good impactful displays.


It is however the collectables market that really gets the newstrade out of their seats and cheering. Patrick King, sales director of distributor MMC, values the annual collectables market at £130 million with an average purchase now at £1.14. Again, independent retailers are key – accounting for half of all sales. King claims that the market is being driven by genuine product innovation and there is now heightened interest from major grocers who have the space to make over to large and impactful displays of often bulky products. Menzies Distribution’s Peter Martin agrees. He sees the collectable market pre-World Cup as one of the best sales opportunities for retailers in 2010, with up to £60 million potentially being rung up.

Conventional print on paper publishers should stop and take a look at the collectables market. Largely aimed at the schoolboy market, product range, packaging and innovation is impressive – and has extended from the staple of stickers and trading cards. For the 2010 World Cup, MMC publishers have been particularly creative. Factory Entertainment has the official FIFA license for a World Cup magnet and album collection and Magic Box has the official FA England license for GoGo’s Crazy Bones England, complete with model dugout.

Trading cards & stickers

The two giants of the trading card and sticker market, Panini and Topps, have clearly been planning their World Cup campaigns for over a year with massive distribution and marketing of official products. First out in late February was the Panini Adrenalyn XL Trading Card Game which was followed up by a sticker and album collection. Both products have official FIFA endorsement. Panini’s circulation manager, Rebecca Smith, states that this year will see the largest distribution of free albums ever – over 7 million – including in the News of the World. Smith claims that massive sampling is key to huge volume sales.

Mike Riddell, managing director of Panini UK, says that the Italian based company has a long-term global alliance with FIFA that is of key strategic importance.

“Because Panini buys rights for all 32 teams included in the official FIFA collections, they are able to portray players in their correct strip, enabling schoolboy collectors to have instant recognition at kick off. This generates a real currency in the playground.”

Panini has licenses for most soccer mad countries with all products produced from a huge printing and packing centre in Modena, Italy. Riddell continues, “Epos is measured daily to monitor demand and the flow of product can be increased very quickly if need be – the international nature of Panini brands also makes it easy for us to transfer stickers and albums between markets to match demand.”

Kevin Fitzmaurice of Martin McColl sees this year’s tournament as a significant trading opportunity. Its 1,260 strong chain is looking to drive £5 million of revenue through World Cup related titles this year. The multiple retailer plans to give away 300,000 free albums in store. Store locations in residential areas and close to schools makes this group a key customer for collectables publishers. The 40p/50p price for many collectable packs is just right for pocket money purchase. Fitzmaurice sees striking display as key, and in the run up to the tournament, promotional bays have been devoted to the category and free standing display units will be in store.

Currently third favourites to win the tournament, England’s fortunes are being heavily promoted by Topps with two official England licenses – Match Attax Official England Trading Card Game and Official England Sticker Collection. Pricing ranges from packs at 40p to starter packs at £4.95.

Topps Europe are backing the brands with £750,000 of TV advertisements and a cover mounting campaign with titles such as Match and Beano. In Match of the Day, the gifts will include randomly inserted autographed cards. David Smyth, brand manager for Topps, points to the strong brand recognition of the Match Attax game format. Supermarkets are clearly a growing part of this seasonally huge market. Topps have been particularly innovative with Tesco. Perhaps with an eye for the Dads digging into pockets, trading card packs on sale in Tesco offer an exclusive legend card soccer star alongside modern day players. There is a place in everyone’s hearts for the team of ’66.

The publishing industry in the UK is traditionally responsive and quick to capitalise on major sporting or celebratory events. This year’s FIFA World Cup is no exception. Be it traditional soccer brands, one-shots or the growing and innovative collectables market, there is investment, innovation and clear commitment from retailers both large and small. Truth is, if publishers have not made plans by the time that you read this piece, they are going to have to react in a swift, tactical way – and only if England do have a good run past the first round of three games.

How important is it that England do well for the market to prosper? David Smyth of Topps says, “Of course everyone at Topps is rooting for England to progress into the final stages and indeed to win. But remember that UK soccer is very international with well-known Premier League players who we see every week appearing across the 32 teams. There will be huge interest and sales whatever the result.”

So cheer on your favourite team, open a cold beer, grab a sausage from the BBQ and enjoy.