Players from the title-holding teams display their respective shirts for the upcoming season. (left to right) Champions Cup holders Clarendon College; Holders of the Walker St Catherine Cup; Manning Cup Holders Kingston College; daCosta Cup holders Garvey Maceo; Cup holders Ben Francis Edwin Allen and Olivier Shield holders Kingston College.
It’s no secret that merchandising is the key to growing the sport and sports marketers Tanya Lee-Perkins and Paula Pinnock know it all too well.
In fact, both agree that there is potential for Jamaican high school sports to flourish through merchandising, but in the same breath, they pointed out that it would take key marketing strategies to prove effective.
Their sentiments follow the recent launch of schoolboy football where Inter-Secondary Schools Athletic Association (ISSA) President Keith Wellington unveiled attractive jerseys that the 37 Manning Cup teams and 81 teams in the daCosta Cup will sport during the next season which will start on September 10th.
According to Wellington, equipment supplier Soccer Xpress has been asked to ensure the shirts are eye-catching to encourage schoolboy football fans to buy replicas.
Although the sale of replica shirts is not new to the school football landscape, the quality of the product, Lee-Perkins said, could prove the difference and holds the potential for a good comeback.
However, she explained that such a return depends on the schools’ clientele, as the more popular the team, the greater the potential return.
“Merchandising is a multi-billion dollar industry in sports and nothing excites Jamaican sports fans the way high school sports do. So selling replica jerseys to fans is a huge opportunity for schools to increase revenue from their team to help fund their school programs,” Lee-Perkins said.
The Leep Marketing manager added that it’s incumbent on schools to entice their fans with more than just replica jerseys, as team merchandise creates great camaraderie between fans and the team.
“Schools should solicit their alumni and other supporters with caps, t-shirts, replica jerseys as a way to raise funds for their institutions. It’s mutually beneficial, as supporters will feel more connected to give to their team and the school gets a lot- needed income to further help in the development of their students so everyone wins,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
Pinnock believes that Jamaican schools have, over the years, missed the opportunity to maximize marketing opportunities.
Still, she is of the opinion that people will spend the money to support their school like they do their favorite English Premier League (EPL) clubs, but like Perkins, said the shirt had to be worth it.
“Schools around the world are monetizing their brand, and not just for sport, but as part of their identity and to boost morale and team spirit. Jamaica is a bit behind in this area despite our successes in athletics and our junior athletes. Unfortunately, events like the Champs and schoolboy football have not translated into financial rewards for schools beyond sponsorships and donations,” Pinnock explained, reiterating for schools to capitalize, ISSA’s partnership must be with a reputable brand that produces quality jerseys that have a lifestyle.
“We see Arsenal recently released a Jamaican flavored shirt which has mass appeal beyond just Arsenal fans. Schools also need to understand that to produce these quality shirts they will have to accept smaller revenue shares. “EPL clubs average around 7.5% in kit sales. If the brands they partner with can move significant volumes, that will certainly be rewarding for schools,” she said.
Meanwhile Warren Bloise, sporting director at Cornwall College, while also alluding to the authenticity and quality of the product, said it would take some innovation for schools to really benefit from shirt sales.
“Even if there is an opportunity, there are several things that need to happen for this to be effective. You are going to have to set up a shop at most games for this to happen or at least a tent or something to make some uniforms [jerseys], because at games you get the audience. So that’s a good way to do it,” Bloise told the Observer.
“Not many people are going to come to school to get a jersey. So there are challenges, even if you look at other entities or leagues that are doing it successfully like the NBA and so on, they have brands and authenticated uniforms.
“But if I were to make an authentic replica of the Cornwall College jersey, which we plan to do, the cost will be significant. Few people care, they just want the crest or the color and they go, but it’s is something that needs to be looked at, the question is whether or not the work is worth the return,” he added.
And while Bloise believes any income is good income, he thinks there are other avenues that schools could benefit from significantly, including intellectual property rights to television.
“Until schools are able to get their own broadcast channels, they’re not really going to make any money. Schools should have access to broadcast through their own channels, whether that’s Youtube or others and then try to earn some income from it. It’s the only way to make money,” Bloise explained.
He explained that if schools such as Kingston College, Cornwall College, Jamaica College, Calabar and others with massive off-island followers can monetize their streams, they will earn more than they can. would do by selling replica jerseys.
“If you get 5,000 people watching a game for US$5, I don’t need to sell shirts, I make more on the game,” Bloise said.
He continued: “If I sell a season pass, even if I can tap into SportsMax‘feed and channel that through my own channels and give them a percentage, I’m fine with that, but all we have to do is redistribute the stream to my audience.
“I may have a Facebook page with 4,500 Cornwallians there and I tell them to come and give me US$2 and I buy the SportsMax feed and I give SportsMax no matter what, I’m still making money. So they have now made us sell the product everywhere for them and those who want to watch SportsMax can watch SportsMaxthey can even mark it [the feed which schools use] and can run their ads in the same way.”
Kingston College celebrates their Champs victory with the Mortimer Geddes Trophy.
LEE-PERKINS…selling replica jerseys to fans is a huge opportunity for schools to raise revenue for their team to help fund their school programs (Pictures: Observer File)