Just how popular is the World Cup? Try this comparison on for size: combine the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup Finals, the NBA Finals, and for good measure, a seventh game of the World Series and you are only starting to approach the level of interest and excitement the month-long soccer competition (June 12-July 13) generates once every four years around the world.
Michael Okebiyi, president of lifestyle sneaker brand Tyrek, believes there is no sporting event that can compete with the epic fervor of the World Cup. This summer is expected to be no exception when 32 teams and their legions of fans descend upon Brazil to determine which country will reign supreme. Okebiyi says a soccer-crazed world presents a golden opportunity to market Tyrek’s line of World Cup-inspired casual footwear. Each of the 32 leather lace-ups sport the country’s name, colors and a “Brazil 2014” embroidery on the toe. Styles retail for $150, except for the nine previous World Cup winners, which are given the Midas touch with 24K gold-tipped laces ($175 retail). “It’s a cultural event that lasts an entire month meaning that for a whole summer people are fixated on their country and that makes World Cup merchandise a sustainable sale,” Okebiyi adds.
Also getting into the game is iShoes, a new Portuguese brand introducing customizable men’s and women’s sneakers decked out in team colors. Wearers (and fickle fans) can swap out interchangeable Velcro strips featuring team flags and then add plaid, polka dot and metallic strips when the tournament is over. Not to be outdone, Puma is revisiting its archives by releasing 1968’s Roma Basic in Italian colors and the Basic Classic Canvas in red, white and blue for U.S. fans. The brand also pays homage to the host country with three classic silhouettes in Brazil’s green and yellow color scheme.
Fifa has even pegged eco-friendly Brazilian brand Amazonas as the official flip-flops of the World Cup. The game-to-beach collection includes eight men’s and women’s styles to be sold exclusively at match venues, as well as a range of 17 flag-inspired flip-flop styles made of recyclable rubber available for international distribution. Frederico Pucci, export manager, predicts top-selling styles will be Brazil, followed by Argentina. “Everyone will be Brazilian this summer,” he says, noting that the country’s storied history in the sport makes it a popular choice even in rival countries.
Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of the NPD Group, agrees Brazil color-themed styles will be scoring at retail. “The buzz surrounding this World Cup is going to be magnified because it’s being hosted by a passionate soccer country,” he offers. Helping matters stateside, he adds, is the growing popularity of soccer at the youth level coupled with an influx of immigrants from soccer-mad countries. In fact, Cohen predicts this World Cup may be the biggest moneymaker for retailers yet. “Over the years the World Cup has had regional reach in the States, but marketing is getting more savvy and reaching a wider sector of Hispanic and European communities,” he says.
Soccer fans or not, the themed shoes are a unique way for consumers to celebrate their respective nationalities–a desire taht can reach way beyond the World Cup tournament. “Whether they are from South or Central America, Asia or Europe, wearing their country’s colors is a chance for them to connect to their home,” Okebiyi offers.