The Publisher That Sells Nearly $1 Billion in Stickers Every World Cup
With the World Cup finally under way, soccer fans around the globe are relishing the opportunity to cheer for their favorite teams and athletes competing at the highest stage of the most beloved sport in modern history. Unless, of course, those fans are American or Italian, two nations expected to have made the tournament that failed spectacularly to do so. For them, this tournament is certain to be a confusing cocktail of shame, excitement and regret as they force themselves to cheer and jeer for other nations—we expect more of the latter.
As it happens, however, not everyone in Italy is dreading this latest iteration of the World Cup, and with good reason. Specifically, Panini, an Italian publishing house based in Modena, will be much too busy to have any regrets about their own national team’s absence.
The company is well-known for producing collectible stickers, and their quadrennial World Cup series is by far their most popular, and lucrative, product. Panini prints a free, 80-page booklet for the stickers, which cost around $1 for a packet of five. Since the name of the game is to collect them all, most collectors will pay more than $300 in order to do so.
— Panini America (@PaniniAmerica) June 12, 2018
While Panini does more than just print stickers for the World Cup, including making albums and stickers for Disney characters, Harry Potter and Spider-Man, the competition is by far the company’s biggest moneymaker.
For example, sales for 2014, the year of the last World Cup, rose 38 percent to $917 million before falling to $567 million in 2015. To meet such demand, Panini increases its global workforce of 1,100 by around 20 percent, and starts working feverishly on production over six months prior to the competition.
The profitability of these stickers makes it a little less mind-boggling to hear about an armed robbery that took place last week in Argentina, in which thieves made off with $360,000 worth of Panini World Cup stickers from a local printing business.
While this loss will certainly sting for the publisher, it is a small fraction of what they hope to make off of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Panini is well-versed in taking advantage of its biggest business opportunity, as other event-specific merchandise peddlers do on a regular basis. In the world of promotional apparel, we need look no further than Fanatics’ frantic selling during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory this past year for a comparable company. By meeting demand at times of extreme pressure, businesses like Panini and Fanatics exemplify what it means to give end-users what they want, exactly when they want it.
In Panini’s case, basing the bulk of its business around a recurring, ultra-popular international sporting event is definitely not the norm for other printers or promotional products companies. But its dedication to meeting demand should be a lesson for any company that looks to do the same.