Grassroots campaigns could be key for our feeder clubs By Steven Sandor Posted on March 16, 2011 1 0 637 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter As the business of soccer expands, merchandisers and retailers are learning that there is a market out there that’s a lot larger than the larger club sides. Manchester United and Barcelona jerseys are common. Just as hockey fans get gear from their favourite NHL teams, or football and basketball teams follow college teams, will soccer fans gravitate to the teams that develop talent? And, more importantly, will they spend money? Oakville Soccer Club is a fascinating case in point. Earlier this month, the club unveiled a new Red Zone, where OSC-branded Umbro gear would be made available to the paying public. The new store is located in the Pine Glen Soccer Centre, where Toronto FC does the bulk of its indoor training. For OSC, there is the opportunity to brand itself and create new revenue streams, just as any pro team would. For Umbro, it gives the brand the right to claim that it is supporting grassroots soccer in the country. “We are extremely proud of our long term relationship with Oakville SC,” said Gerald Woodman, president of Umbro Canada. “By continually evolving and leading with new concepts and ideas, OSC are the gold standard for football in Canada. The Red Zone represents an expression of football products for the player, the fan and supporter. Umbro’s leading edge concepts will be showcased here along with OSC/Umbro branded products. The assortment will continually be refreshed with compelling and exciting football culture products. Inside the Red Zone outlet. “Grassroots soccer is at the very heart of our brand. We have worked with OSC over the years to combine our deep heritage in sports tailoring along with our rich insights into football to create product that is both iconic and insightful. These products allow the player to play at their very best. We have created bespoke products for OSC that allow the players to perform and look smart in doing so.” If Oakville’s Red Zone, which includes a T-shirt bar where shoppers can customize their own fan gear, is successful, it offers food for thought to the other elite developmental teams in the country. If Oakville can brand itself — and market its wares outside of the parents and the kids who take part in the program — why can’t other clubs open up shop? Edmonton’s renowned Victoria program has a link to buy gear on its site, but it’s dead. The famous Erin Mills Soccer Club in Mississauga, which is partnered with the West Ham United Academy, models its green and white Eagles jerseys after Hungary’s most famous club, Ferencváros. No market is too small to tap. “The OSC brand is well known and respected in the Oakville community and we are delighted to now be able to offer the OSC’s supporters the opportunity to wear it with pride on the sideline and the sidewalk, as well as on the pitch,” said OSC Chief Administrative Officer Paul Varian when Umbro announced the deal to the media. Read: Oakville isn’t simply going after the soccer moms and dads anymore. Oakville’s model is ambitious. But, is it just the beginning? Hopefully, through merchandising, Canadian sports fans can familiarize themselves with the elite prep soccer programs in this country, like they know the big junior hockey clubs. AC Misfits jersey, circa 2005. Dodgy fullback wearing the kit. Contact this site for info on replica kits. Who knows where the merchandising will end? You know, my old Edmonton and District Soccer Association Div. 5 team AC Misfits, had full home and road Umbro kits during our heyday in the early 2000s. (“Heyday” as in disciplinary hearings and juggling our lineup because of the suspensions we’d picked up the previous week). But, we did walk away with the 2005 men’s recreational league title. Wonder if we could ink a merch deal on our retro kit… Mr. Woodman, give me a call. Have I got a partnership deal for you!