New CSA online store vital to spread brand outside of the three major Canadian cities By Steven Sandor Posted on May 27, 2011 3 0 423 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Walk into a sporting goods store anywhere in this country, tell the clerk “I want a Canada jersey” and you are sure to be shown a variety of red and white hockey sweaters. That’s the nature of the beast. Last year, as Canada was preparing to play Peru in a friendly at BMO Field, Dwayne De Rosario spoke to the media of his frustration of not being able to find Canada jerseys at sporting-goods stores. It was a major problem. Players noticed. But, today, the Canadian Soccer Association announced the launch of a new online store, where fans can buy jerseys, warm-up gear and other licensed products. Reps from Umbro Canada confirmed that the prices in the online store are identical to the MSRPs for the physical retailers. Why is this important? Yes, Umbro has definitely improved the visibility of the jersey in major markets, and has held a successful launch event in Toronto. The jersey is making its way into major outlets in time for Canada’s June 1 friendly against Ecuador. But Toronto, while being Canada’s biggest market, does not reflect the entire country. Nor does Vancouver or Montreal. They are pieces of the puzzle. Big ones, granted, but until Canadian soccer branding gets into the consciousness of sports fans in the medium-sized cities down to the small towns, we can’t say we have successfully created a Canadian soccer culture. “When we entered this partnership with the Canadian Soccer Association, we wanted to play a role in creating, defining and driving the culture of soccer in this country,” said Umbro Canada president Gerald Woodman in a press release issued by the CSA. “This online store is, in that way, a stepping stone towards a stronger, deeper brand on and off the soccer pitch.” That’s where we fall so far behind hockey and even curling on a national scale. You will see small prairie towns gather for Hockey Night in Canada. The small sports shop on the main street of that town in Saskatchewan will likely have Leafs, Habs, Oilers and Flames jerseys. It won’t have national-team soccer gear. You can take that up a notch. It has been far easier to buy an England jersey or a Brazil jersey in Edmonton or Calgary than it has been to track down a Canada shirt. It’s the same issue the record industry used to face. Sure, kids in big cities listened to the latest, cutting-edge material. That’s because they had indie record shops that imported English garage music and Scandinavian black metal. But, smaller centres didn’t have those hip locations. But the Internet changed all of that, giving people equal access to new and cutting-edge material. Soccer fans are similar to the old indie-rock generation. Marginalized, but damn supportive of their genre. But, finally, the CSA and its apparel partner have made an honest attempt to brand the Canadian national team outside of, well, Toronto. Because, no matter how hard Umbro works to make the jersey available, there are still going to be huge holes in the Canadian marketplace.