A colleague of mine recently shared an online article with me called “Can the NFL Ban on Marketplace Sales Succeed?” Within the article, the writer describes a recent quoted policy by the NFL restricting distributors and retailers from selling to other online sellers and retailers. While the article leans towards the effect this will have on smaller retailers attempting to survive, it actually highlights a bigger issue that the NFL, and all brand owners, want to encourage: accountability.
Roughly 8% of all retail sales in the United States occurs online. And that number is only going to grow. Brand owners looking to reach consumers of licensed merchandise have thus far taken a “good faith” approach that legitimate distributors and retailers will sell to consumers and reputable sellers. Unfortunately, the proliferation of counterfeit online goods has eroded that good faith. It’s been up to the brand owners to put policies in place to protect their licensed partners in the distribution and retail chain.
The NFL approach is a bit different in that it’s now asking distributors and retailers to share in the responsibility. Retailers are allowed to sell licensed merchandise on their own online sites, but not to individuals who will then resell those items on eBay, Amazon and other third party online avenues. Those retailers that won’t comply may have their ability to sell NFL merchandise revoked.
In my personal opinion, I like the policy. It’s easy for the consumer to blame brand owners and law enforcement for not doing enough to fight the plague of counterfeiting. However, the supply chain has responsibility as well. Distributors and retailers have a responsibility to know what anyone buying in bulk is going to do with those goods.
The author quotes a consultant who says that the way to enforce this is to mark the goods and track them throughout the entire supply chain. We currently do this for several clients with our OpSec InSight platform. However, the consultant is correct in mentioning that it requires two things: investment and cooperation.
The NFL is merely the first domino to fall. You can bet that many other licensed properties, sports and otherwise, will follow suit. You’ve heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child?” Well, it’s going to take all of us to stop counterfeiting and protect the consumer, the public and ourselves.