I’ve always been a hardcore Baltimore-based sports fan, so you can imagine how thrilled I was when the Ravens played against the 49ers in this year’s Super Bowl. Yet, for all my excitement, I still cringed when I attended the game and could easily spot the difference between the officially sanctioned memorabilia and those items that weren’t.
In my role at OpSec, I help manage the licensing programs for many of the top U.S. sports leagues, each with its own unique goals and objectives when it comes to managing the channels where official gear will be sold.
Regardless the sport, one thing is universal: each league views counterfeiting as a serious issue that must be stopped. So, when I first meet with a league that is looking to implement a new licensing program, I work hard to ensure that their unique needs are going to be met to deter the overall problem of unauthorized goods. Here are some reasons why a league should implement a brand protection program:
- Losing control of the supply chain means lost revenue. The money spent by fans on fake gear is revenue lost by the team and league. It’s estimated that counterfeiting costs the sports industry over $6.5 billion dollars every year. This lost revenue is then passed along to the public.
- Counterfeit goods are hazardous to fans. Most of the unauthorized gear is made from subpar materials, which could react to a fan’s skin or specific allergies they may have. A t-shirt purported to be made of cotton may not be and the inks and dyes used could be from any number of illegal factories around the world.
- Failing to protect the brand leads to loss of trust. Think about it – many fans don’t know how to successfully spot fake gear and may blame the sports league itself when they purchase substandard items like t-shirts and jerseys, believing the teams are skimping on quality. This could cause them ill will towards their favorite team and the spot as a whole.
There are a plethora of things a sports league can do to protect itself: hangtags, holographic labels, unique threading in woven apparel. The real question is how far each league wants to go when it comes to securing their supply chains.