Promo Suppliers on How Sales Are Returning to the Sports and Music Entertainment Markets
Since the pandemic shut down the entire country, some sectors have bounced back quicker than others. Two areas that have struggled to find their paths to normal are sports and live music, which tend to rely on large crowds that have been mostly banished over the past year.
One thing is for sure: Whether distributors have been eyeing center stage or center field, now is an ideal time to jump into the entertainment space. Allowing fans back into venues nationwide should also provide a much-needed spike in promotional product sales.
“I can see there being a large surge for promotional products with everything coming back to normal,” Celil Kes, sales manager at San Diego-based Let’s Support, said. “Everyone is always looking for free things or even just new merchandise since there has been a whole year of not getting any.”
As for Dan Taylor, president and CEO of BamBams, Manassas, Va., who described 2020 sales as “abysmal,” he is optimistic about the recent uptick in demand.
“After experiencing 14 months of restrictions and cancellations of outdoor events, it is our opinion that people are eager to get together to cheer on their team or listen to their favorite band,” Taylor said. “The demand of products for outdoor events is rising, and it is a good time to get prepared and connected with the buyers. The order size is typically large and worth the effort.”
Sports & Tailgating
To get back in the game, Kes advised distributors to pitch new ideas to clients to pique their interest. Let’s Support’s most popular sports item is its scarf, which is available in knit, woven and printed varieties.
“Three different scarves [that are] perfect for any kind of weather or game,” he said. “Apparel will never wear out. ... It’s unique, classy and different. Be on the lookout for more unique and statement promo items. We all just want our clients to have the best-dressed fans.”
When it comes to where the demand is, Taylor hasn’t seen much of a difference in what end-buyers are seeking, with options from small handheld products to large flags still dominating the space.
“We primarily see the same products in the $1 to $2 net price range as we have in recent years,” he said. “They include rally towels, BamBams noisemakers, banners and flags, with flags as a trending product line.”
Keith Lofton, vice president of sales for Pittsburgh’s Pro Towels, referenced the NBA and NHL bubble model that prevented fans from being in attendance last year, and, therefore, removed promo giveaways from the equation. While signage sales may have surged for these environments, suppliers like Pro Towels thrive on game-day giveaways, specifically playoff rally towels.
“This year, however, that script has completely changed,” he said. “We started with teams ordering for low-capacity stadiums, and, as they’ve added fans, they’ve added giveaways to the stands. We are now fulfilling playoff towel orders for full-capacity stadiums for NHL and NBA teams, and it’s a rush!”
There are ample opportunities to sell to local youth and amateur sports leagues or corporate businesses wanting sports-themed promotions, but that coveted pro team client is within reach if you’re ready for big league sales.
“Sports is such a competitive market when it comes to our industry because so many distributors want to say they work with their favorite team or local team, so you have to be patient and persistent,” Lofton said. “Make sure they know you can pull off the impossible and make sure you’re always available to support their needs. The teams move fast and you’ve got to be ready to move with them.”
While returning to the seats is a big accomplishment to normal game days, there is still one last aspect to anticipate: tailgating. So distributors should get ahead of these sales, as Lofton foresees tailgating returning by football season.
“Tailgating brings sponsorships, boosters and brands from all around looking to show their school spirit and help bring fans together, so I anticipate a similar trend in what we’ve seen with some summer categories,” he said. “These brands will look to promote 10 times harder and will push the agenda and really beef up their promo inventory to give out at these events.”
However, even with chart-topping musicians compiling a full schedule of concerts for summer and beyond, the future isn’t as clear for live music. While sports made a gradual return over the course of the past year, concerts didn’t.
“With concerts and festivals nonexistent last year, so were our sales,” Kes said. “We’ve currently been seeing a little rebound [as] event planning resumes. I’m not too sure how these events will look like, but I definitely know promo products will be one of the main things that everyone will look forward to besides the event itself.”
There are glimpses of hope from orders that are coming in, with Taylor seeing the usual mix of hats, bags, bracelets and lapel pins being popular among artists who have begun sourcing product for both in-person and web merch collections, but he couldn’t rule out a familiar trend emerging as a key product as event planning progresses.
“It is too early to determine how COVID might have changed the product mix,” he said. “I suppose that branded masks might still be an option in some venues.”
Lofton echoed the uncertainty with concert merch selections, but noted discussions have begun with distributors for beach towels and tees in that space, and he anticipates the sales will follow.
“I feel like I’ve forgotten what a concert is,” Lofton said. “We haven’t quite seen the concert business back, but it’s right around the corner. ... The stadiums for sporting events being close to full capacity speaks to what we might see when the concerts start to heat up this summer, and that spells good news for that market in our industry.”