The excitement is palpable and football fever is in the air, what with the Football Under -17 World cup India being barely 2 weeks away. It is the first time that India is holding a FIFA event and that it is an Under -17 World Cup is doubly apt because India has the largest youth population in the world with 356 million 10-24-year-olds. 24 teams from across the world including host country India will vie for becoming the FIFA Under 17 World Champions and the excitement has been building up across quarters. The run-up to the event saw the launch of Mission 11 Million, a government initiative that sought to engage 11 million kids across the country in football-related activities. 6 cities, Delhi, Margao, Kolkatta, Kochi, Navi Mumbai and Guwahati will have the pride and honor of hosting 32 matches. There have been events galore from school to state levels, there has been massive press coverage and there is an overall upliftment in the football infrastructure and facilities. Many a football superstar from a Luis Figo to a Toni Kroos took their first steps to international fame and fortune at a FIFA Under 17 stage and therefore holding this epic event in India has massive potential for what it could do the status of football in India.
As Dream Theatre, we are feeling the excitement at another level with the FIFA Under 17 World Cup. We support FIFA’s licensing programme in India and South Asia from the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil onwards and are seeing a massive spurt in interest. The India licensing programme in 2014 saw activation across 3 main categories of apparel, bags, and watches. The programme was available across the top- 8-10 cities and had a strong retail presence across Shoppers Stop, Pantaloons and Central stores. While the football viewership was one of the largest across the world, what was amazing was that the licensed merchandise at retail found solid resonance and that for us was a sure shot indicator of the potential of football in a uni sports country that loves its cricket. Cut to 2017 and the FIFA Under 17 cup will have its own dedicated licensed merchandise programme and fans will have chance to buy a plethora of merchandise: Apparel ( Rs. 499 onwards) Gifts and Novelties ( Metal posters, Plush, Ceramic Mugs, Bag tags, Magnets, Caps etc) with prices are in the Rs. 150-500 range will be available across retail. The products will be on shelves in close to 150 stores of Shoppers Stop, Max Retail, Central, Globus, Sports Station and across a 1000+ apparel and sports stores in around 22 cities across India. Retailers too are massively “in” with a big focus on the U-17 merchandise and have a whole host of promotions and offers. The merchandise will also be available across top E-tailers like Amazon, Flipkart, Jabong, Myntra to ensure that football fans across the country can get their hands on to authentic merchandise. In yet another first for India, the merchandise will also be retailed at In-stadium kiosks in 6 cities where the matches are being held, allowing fans the chance to buy FIFA U-17 merchandise as they walk in to watch the matches. The FIFA U-17 World Cup Sponsors have latched onto the licensed merchandise programmes well and are collaborating with licensees to use licensed merchandise for their marketing and outreach programmes making it a 360-degree engagement.
What we are therefore witnessing is sure, but solid steps that football is taking in India. As is the Licensing programs build around sports and especially soccer. From players to fans and from the joy of witnessing a world class match in India to the growing stature of the business of licensing for football, we are feeling a buzz, a buzz that we are sure will only grow louder and stronger. Come join the excitement!