Be A Sport

Be A Sport

Score points with customers of every age at every level

With all the themes that come and go, keeping up with popular party trends can seem like an athletic feat in itself. Thank goodness for sports-a perennial favorite of young and old, male and female all year round.

From little league baseball banquets and birthdays to graduations and Super Bowl bashes, sports offer an everyday sales opportunity both within and beyond the professional and amateur environments. And by staying in the game full-time, consumers will remember that your store sells sports items for their birthday or the big game. Score!

Minor Leagues
Starting at the basic level, kids are involved in sports around the calendar - including everything from soccer, baseball and football to hockey and basketball, just to name a few. By including a variety of team colored items (much like your school colored items) and general sports product, you can be sure to have your bases covered.

Angelo Giummarra, vice president of sales/party division of Amscan, said that school spirit programs remain popular in most stores, with sections from 4 feet to 12 feet featuring an assortment of novelties, decorations and wearables merchandised by school color. Solids and sports can be easily integrated into a display applicable for the every day or for a specific school sporting event or graduation, presenting a great opportunity for cross merchandising.

And while sales are especially brisk around graduation season, they can remain steady throughout the year. At Unique Industries, Debbie Beer said they've found their general "Super Sports" theme ensemble to be the best-selling design. The bright primary colors and multiple-sports inclusions (basketball, football, soccer, baseball, ice hockey) appeal to everyone at every age.

"Sports-minded kids often play many sports in school, not just one, and moms are happy to plan a multi-sport party celebration, regardless of the birthday month," Beer said. "We have seen increases in the amount and style of sports-adapted party favors, particularly expanded for girls.

"For example," she continued, "sports-theme wrist bands, necklaces, bubbles, yo-yos and whistles are all great party favor items that go beyond the literal ‘ball' favor."

Keep in mind that with many youth sporting events and parties, snacks and prizes are involved. Some fun products to include are party bags in solid colors to mix and match, water bottles in appropriate team colors and colored novelty snack food products like candies. By providing clever solutions for packaging these items, you're providing a clever solution to busy parents.

Major Leagues
These busy parents may very well be planning a celebration of their own. It's still about the food-plates and napkins are the key to successful sports sales-but adults tend to celebrate on a major league level with more licensed and pro sports items.

According to a Retail Advertising and Marketing Assoc. (RAMA) survey, at least 168 million people were estimated to watch the Super Bowl in 2010, with total Super Bowl spending expected to reach $8.9 billion. Mega media and advertising campaigns mean that every consumer is aware of national sporting events like the Super Bowl, World Series, etc.

"Consumers know about the event, but it's up to the retailers to make sure that consumers know where to purchase the party products for the big celebration," Beer said. "Stores should open and display packages of bright banners, inflate sports balloons and promote a section of solid colors to coordinate with the favorite team's colors."

And many of those shoppers want product with the favorite team's logo on it as well, and Nicole Grier of Hallmark Party said they've found success with licensed sports product. Given the fact that the Super Bowl is the No. 1 at home party event of the year, it's no surprise that fan affinity for specific NFL teams - along with regular events created by tailgating or game watching parties - delivers an ongoing need for NFL team product.

"We have seen increased popularity of the NFL product primarily due to the rise in fan base among women and their passion for creating an event around the game watching," Grier said. "Product is also being used for team parties as many children's football teams adopt their favorite pro team names and logos."

But it's not just football, as Giummarra said Amscan's Major League Baseball (MLB) program is increasing in popularity. Featuring 29 teams with a broad selection of merchandise that includes "customizable" product, the result is enough items to create an end cap or inline display for each of the MLB teams. This appeals to both the adult throwing a World Series party and the youth celebrating their birthday with a favorite team.

Grier added that no matter the sport, most fans are motivated by their passion and have intent to purchase logo items. It's important that a broad range of logo party product integrated with generic solids and other decoration items is highly visible and well displayed, with pull-forward features optimal for events/game days.
The result? Retailers will establish themselves as a go-to destination for these products to capitalize on everyday and event usage.

Full Schedule
There is no shortage of events, which means there is no shortage of retail opportunities. Beer mentioned that in an age of expanded and non-stop media coverage, sports games are no longer specifically pegged to one month or another. Pre-season matches and post-season exhibitions mean that most sports last nearly year-round, and this provides additional incentive and opportunity for retailers to keep sports-theme merchandise stocked all year.

"Many accounts maintain a year around planogram of basic sports related items that includes face paint, hair spray, window markers, pom poms, balloons, drinkware, foam No. 1 fingers, vinyl decals, tattoos and flags," said Brent Schlosser, senior vice president/new business development of Amscan. "A frequently mentioned item from customers is foam footballs (Nerf style) in large sizes to be tossed into spectator crowds or smaller versions for play time party favors."

"Savvy retailers also know the most popular community-based sports programs and highlight those themes in their store," Beer added. "For example, if your town hosts a championship baseball team, then be sure to highlight baseball merchandise year-round to entice the support of local party planners."

But Beer has found birthday celebrations are the biggest driver of sports-themed party merchandise - far more than championship game parties or one-day home gatherings around the television. Since birthdays occur, of course, in every month, retailers can sell sports merchandise all year long. Core items for any celebration include party paperware - paper napkins, plates and cups - while balloons, hats, blowouts, loot bags and other party decorations are key components for add-on sales.

No matter what the occasion - a big birthday or a big game - make sure to have a full line-up of sports-related merchandise and you're sure to become a crowd favorite.

By Abby Heugel
Managing Editor


Originally posted Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010