Manchester United is unquestionably one of the most iconic global sports brands, synonymous with heritage, quality and success. With such popularity, it is not surprising that Manchester United has a large counterfeit problem.
Manchester United is unquestionably one of the most iconic global sports brands, synonymous with heritage, quality and success. Just a few incredible facts, substantiating the popularity of the brand include:
- They have the most popular UK-registered Facebook page 73 million connections (More Facebook connections than the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB combined)
- Their website attracts approximately 36m page views each month
- During the 2017/18 season, Manchester United matches generated a cumulative audience of 3.2 billion viewers across 200 territories¹
Football’s Counterfeit Challenges
Given that football is the world’s most popular sport with an estimated 3.5 billion fans² it is unsurprising that counterfeit merchandise is produced on a global scale. An estimated €500 million worth of revenues is lost in the EU every year due to sales of fake sports equipment³ – the results of which are lost jobs and funding of criminal organisations.
Over the course of the 2015/16 season, the Premier League alone seized almost 100,000 counterfeit items worth more than £1million, taking the total value of items recovered past £10millon since 2007⁴. This figure does not consider clubs’ own seizures and those of kit manufacturers.
The OpSec Solution
Manchester United chose OpSec to help protect and authenticate their licensed merchandise, while at the same time reinforcing their brand integrity and individuality. OpSec provides the global sports industry with an unrivalled range of fully integrated tools to support brand owners, covering the areas of optical, material and digital security.
For Manchester United, four key elements were integrated into the existing solution:
Product Authentication Technologies
As a leader in optical security for nearly 40 years, OpSec provides Optically Variable Device technology (OVD) to numerous global high security projects including national banknotes, passports and other government-issued documents.
The same level of technology was used to develop a highly secure holographic OVD to secure all Manchester United licensed merchandise.
OpSec’s design and origination team utilized leading e-beam technology to create a security hologram encompassing security features at overt, covert and forensic levels.
Each label has a printed serial number and unique id to effectively authenticate official Manchester United licensed merchandise, and can only be purchased by approved Manchester United licensees.
In Sport, it is often the small details that separate winners from the also-rans and the same can be said with branded apparel merchandise.
Manchester United asked OpSec to create a range of hangtags, woven labels, and garment trims that provided a more premium look and feel to standard competitor products and would be more difficult for counterfeiters to emulate.
To match these requirements, OpSec utilized decades of experience in the apparel trims industry to design and manufacture a range of enhanced hangtags that utilized advanced printing techniques and spot UV varnishes – all of which would incorporate the product authentication label.
Woven badges applied to licensed merchandise would also need to align with the Manchester United brand ethos. Therefore, OpSec designed a range of new badges that utilized state of the art production techniques resulting in a premium finish that would once again be difficult for counterfeiters to emulate.
Supply Chain Management
Manchester United staff wanted real time visibility of its global licensee network and instant reporting on authorized label usage and stock.
The modular, cloud-based OpSec InSight™ platform delivers on these requirements and provides Manchester United with a complete supply chain management solution.
Track InSight creates the unique identifiers embedded within every Manchester United secure label and links (via manufacturer declarations within the portal) to licensed merchandise, enabling visibility on:
With such a huge volume of consumers purchasing licensed merchandise, Manchester United realized that this provided them with the ideal opportunity to interact directly with consumers in a whole new way.
Utilizing the unique identifiers on each label, Manchester United encourages consumers to register and authenticate their merchandise. This not only increases the engagement and confidence between consumer and fan, but also provides the Manchester United marketing team with intelligence and contact data that would previously have been impossible to obtain.
The integrated solution provided to Manchester United by OpSec Security offers a one-stop solution to many of the challenges faced by leading global sports clubs.
It firstly helps in the fight against counterfeit products by utilizing state-of-the-art optical technology in security labels that cannot be effectively replicated by counterfeiters.
Secondly, the solution integrates technology into the very fabric of Manchester United products by providing premium badges and hangtags that help to both enhance and protect the brand in the eye of consumer.
OpSec’s InSight track and trace system enables Manchester United licensing and product development staff to have visibility of licensee ordering and label consumption, significantly reducing the ability of unauthorized products entering the market place without identification.
Finally, by leveraging the unique serial numbers provided on each authentication label, marketing teams are able to encourage their customers to ‘buy authentic’, as well as engage directly with consumers to collect decision making contact and location information and purchasing trends.
3 https://euipo.europa.eu/tunnel-web/secure/webdav/guest/document_library/observatory/resources/research-and-studies/ ip_infringement/study2/the_economic_cost_of_IPR_infringement_in_the_clothing_footwear_and_accessories_ sector_en.pdf