For the longest time, I have obsessed with Pakistan Cricket Team’s original merchandise. From endless hours spent in search for the famous 1992 World Cup jersey – that gem of a light-green shade that we associate with our greatest cricketing moment – to contacting various sports vendors in search for the latest team caps and jerseys, I have recognised that I might be suffering from a rather strange form of OCD. This craze has often led to a very obvious question: why is Pakistan Cricket’s official merchandise not widely available in Pakistan? This is a question that I posted to Mr. Najam Sethi, former chairman of the PCB’s Interim Management Committee, on Twitter. I am not sure whether the said project is near completion but it is evident that the Pakistan Cricket Board has been rather lazy in this regard.
It is in this context that I explored sports stores in Dubai, New Delhi, Melbourne, and Sydney as I looked for models of merchandising. In New Delhi, all Nike stores sold the official Team India jersey. Fans at the 2013 Pakistan v India ODI in New Delhi were sporting these official jerseys and that obviously provided the manufacturer with a great marketing tool. At the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Australian team’s official jerseys, caps, and supporter apparel were all available for the general public to buy. Sports stores in Sydney also stocked these items with an official Cricket Australia insignia to establish authenticity. Surprisingly, leading apparel stores in Dubai were selling IPL jerseys. Does it make marketing sense? It absolutely does!
According to this report on askmen, an average NFL franchise made close to USD 5 million through merchandise sales alone in 2006. Of course given Pakistan’s market, and cricket’s brand value, such huge numbers are going to be impossible to match but it does present a strong case; merchandising can be used as an important marketing tool and, consequently, a possible revenue stream.
More importantly, this can go a long way in keeping alive Pakistan Cricket’s brand value given the complete lack of international cricket in Pakistan. Since 2009, no international team has visited Pakistan for an official tour and the star-power that was once associated with the seemingly invincible team of the 90s is just that – a thing of the 90s. Some merchandise activity will do no harm in regaining that lost star-status. Imagine kids wearing jerseys with Ajmal, Misbah, Afridi, Shehzad, Sohaib, Gul, etc. written on their backs!
During the 2011 World Cup, the kit manufacturer (BOOM BOOM) started a rather aggressive retail campaign and the kit sold like hot cakes across Pakistan. The age-old problem of counterfeiting halted this campaign and it was no rocket science that this was bound to happen given that we even sell Shalwar Kameez with Nike logos and Pakistan’s flags with a Mickey Mouse image instead of the crescent.
Is it really that big of a problem? So what can the Pakistan Cricket Board do? Open a souvenir shop at its Headquarter in Lahore and put up a simple “Official Merchandise” tag with each item.
This brings me to an important development in my life. On Saturday, I went through the agonising experience of getting an MRI scan of my left knee, effectively ruling me out of all forms of cricket for a long time. On my way back, through a chance meeting with a sports vendor, I managed to buy Pakistan’s official test match jersey and training jacket. My happiness, quite literally, knew no bounds and the idea of how merchandising can become a profitable venture for the Pakistan Cricket Board also grew in strength.