Every year counterfeiters take advantage of popular sports in operations that draw money away from the leagues and organizations sponsoring the athletic events and into the hands of criminals, and this time of year can prove fruitful for the more opportunistic dabblers in the knock-off apparel market.
Football, baseball, basketball and soccer - whatever the sport, chances are it's respective leagues have had to deal with counterfeiters cutting into their profits at one point or another. Sports are at the forefront of the societal mainstream, regardless of which society you inhabit - for the most part.Which is why any product related to sports is likely to be copied and sold as legitimate by criminals at some point, and why manufacturers and retailers would do well to always ensure product authenticity.Sports have been around for generations, as have counterfeiters - these guys are probably pretty good at pumping the fakes into the supply chain at this point.
With March Madness in full swing, knock-offs are sure to follow
Now we're in that time of year when 64 collegiate basketball teams descend upon our television sets for what is, in America, one of the most popular annual sporting events around: The NCAA March
Collegiate licensing is a $4.3 billion business - criminals want in.
Madness tournament. The collegiate licensing business is a $4.3 billion market, [so] it's no wonder that criminals want in, especially during one of the NCAA's most watched events. In 2011, one counterfeit task force confiscated more than 60,000 pieces of fake gear valued at over $1 million, and the sports spectacles the criminals took advantage of come back every year, with millions of fans ready and willing to drop money on their favorite team's gear.
Often the easiest way to tell if NCAA apparel is a knock-off is to check for the organization's official sticker recognizing product authenticity. Other times the mistake will be much easier to spot than that. Counterfeiters infamously make mistakes, at least in comedic portrayals. A 2001 episode of "That 70's Show" portrayed two of the shows more mischievous characters, Hyde and Fez, selling "Tad Nugent" t-shirts at a Ted Nugent concert.
Apparel isn't the only counterfeited product that the NCAA and other sports organizations have to deal with though. Knock-off tickets also often end up in consumers' hands, and these fakes can prove especially costly for an event such as March Madness.
Plenty of money to be made during March Madness
The March Madness tournament is the NCAA's cash cow, with an estimated $900 million in revenue this year alone set to be made over the course of the Division 1 men's basketball tournament. Hundreds of millions will be spent on licensing deals alone. The higher-seeded teams in the men's bracket are often able to manage a surplus in revenue as well over the course of the event. That's a lot of cash to leave unprotected for counterfeiters to take advantage due to a lack of licensing.
Undoubtedly, organizations that thrive off of annual events will have to do well to ensure product authenticity throughout the supply chain, or else the very same entities could end up dealing with falling profits as the years go on. When knock-off manufacturers find an event as lucrative as the annual NCAA basketball tournament, they are surely compelled to get a piece of the action. Events such as the March Madness tournament are sure to draw counterfeiters like bugs to the flame.
Bill Patterson is OpSec's Vice President of Global Licensing. He is responsible for protecting the royalty stream and brand names of many of the world's largest licensed properties.