The quadrennial FIFA men’s World Cup always has a huge international draw on television, but the numbers watching in India are growing. It is estimated that in the first two days of last year’s Cup, 20 million people watched in India, a 35% increase from 2006, according to the Times of India. Before the Cup ended, the paper notes, 287 people in India had watched the event.
Those kinds of numbers have some thinking that India “will become the largest football-consuming nation in the world,” the paper notes. Those kinds of numbers and that kind of interest, of course, have businesses looking to capitalize. The Times reports that “several English football clubs are entering into licensing arrangements with Indian partners to deliver a complete football lifestyle experience.”
Manchester United, the Premier League’s version of the New York Yankees with the most league titles (19) and a steady stream of big-name players, has been the most aggressive in India, partnering with Future Group-owned Indus League Clothing to create “exclusive ManU branded stores” that’ll carry everything from jerseys and refrigerator magnets to slippers for the more refined fans.
"We didn't have a sportswear brand in our portfolio,” said Rachna Aggarwal, CEO of Indus, according to the Times. “The ManU range is an interesting addition to our offerings since the sport has a big following in India."
Meanwhile, the Blackburn Rovers are now gaining supporters in India since it was purchased by Indian poultry chain Venky's. So Rovers merchandise will soon be finding its way onto the backs of the Indian populace.
Also, Liverpool FC is setting up a football academy in India along with help from the Indian company Carnoustie Group. The team’s gear will be soon be available in India and the club is “considering launching branded cafes targeting its club fans.”
As these clubs are the first to lay down such branding efforts in India, they are likely to grab significant market share before the smaller clubs can even get their gear into the world’s second-largest population. You know what they say. You’ve got to keep up with the Jadhavs.