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Jerseys, sippers, coffee mugs: Fans bat for IPL-themed merchandise

RCB, CSK, MI merchandise in top demand, selling at higher rates

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PBKS vs RCB Live Score, IPL 2023. Photo: Sportzpics

Anushka Bhardwaj New Delhi
With last-ball thrillers, run targets of 200-plus and 250-plus sixes, Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023, now in its fourth week, continues to be a nail-biter. Across the country, cricket fanatics are celebrating the tournament’s return to the ‘home-and-away’ format. And riding this wave of excitement is IPL merchandise: team jerseys, coffee mugs, sippers, bags and more.  

E-commerce platform Flipkart’s keyword trend suggests that search for athleisure-related products rose 30 per cent from 15 days prior to the start of IPL. Keyword searches for the jersey of Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) jumped almost 100 per cent in the same time. “Compared to the pre-IPL season, team jerseys have witnessed a tremendous spike. With every passing season, we have observed an increasing momentum in customer interest in IPL-themed merchandise,” says Abhishek Maloo, senior director, Flipkart Fashion.

Franchise cricket in India has, over the years, escalated the fandom culture, and merchandise is cashing in on it.

“IPL has revolutionised an almost non-existent sports merchandise market in India. Jerseys continue to form 85 per cent of the sales,” says Ravi Kukreja, co-founder, playR, the official merchandising partner for Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Mumbai Indians (MI), Rajasthan Royals (RR) and the official fan merchandising partner for Punjab Kings (PBKS).

He cites an IMARC Group estimate, which expects the global licensed sports merchandise market to reach $39.8 billion by 2027 at a compound annual growth rate of 4.9 per cent during 2022-27.  In 2021, the market was valued at $29.9 billion.

Kritika Chawla, a Delhi based die-hard RCB fan, says the team might not have won a trophy yet but its fan base remains strong and loyal. “A new IPL season means buying the team jersey,” she says. “On match days, we just want to wrap up our work soon and watch the game in the RCB jersey. It feels surreal.”

The more popular the team, the greater the demand for its merchandise and the higher its prices.

“Our major jersey sales come from RCB (25 per cent), CSK (20 per cent), MI, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), and RR (10 per cent each),” says a Pune-based jersey manufacturer who does not wish to be named. “The overall merchandise sales are close to reaching pre-pandemic levels,” he adds.

Satendra (he uses only his first name) from Haryana, who runs multiple social media fan clubs for RCB and CSK, says T-shirts for popular teams can cost up to Rs 1,000.

Ashish Kumar Sinha, director of Tamil Nadu-based Gunja Textiles, says that other than CSK, MI and RCB remain top-sellers, with the jerseys of these teams selling at almost double the price.

While RCB’s Virat Kohli, CSK’s MS Dhoni, MI’s Rohit Sharma and KKR’s owner Shah Rukh Khan bring their power-packed, loyal fan base to the franchise, teams like Gujarat Titans (GT), Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) and RR, too, are gaining momentum this year.

The Hardik Pandya-captained GT lifted the IPL 2022 trophy and LSG, under the captaincy of KL Rahul, ended the tournament as the first runner-up.

“We started manufacturing LSG jerseys this year after the demand spiked,” says Mukesh Pal, chief executive officer of Delhi-based T-shirt manufacturer, Classy Art Creation.

Apart from RCB and CSK jerseys, which bring major sales, other popular fanwear jerseys are of franchises such as Delhi Capitals (DC), KKR and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) from Hrithik Roshan’s brand HRX, says a Myntra spokesperson. “Jerseys have been contributing most to the merchandise sales; that’s what we’ve seen in the last two years,” the spokesperson adds.

Given the craze for cricket, brands are expanding the range of merchandise and also bringing in higher-utility products that cater to multiple needs and age groups.

PlayR’s Ravi Kukreja highlights the need for an exhaustive range of products.  

“Mugs for that rejuvenating cuppa, sippers for drinkware, shakers for gym rats, yoga mats for flexibility and tranquillity, fan tees for on-ground daily wear, polos for Fridays and weekend office wear, back and neck pillows for travel… the idea is to make fan merchandise a part of people’s lifestyles,” he adds.

Bhavik Jain, founder, Jbn PrintStop, which runs an e-commerce merchandising service under the name of Moron, says that sipper bottles, coffee mugs, keychains, and fridge magnets are key selling products on their platform. “Merchandise demand for the two top-selling teams, CSK and RCB, has increased by 40 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively,” he says.

India’s sports merchandise market is still in infancy compared to countries where franchise sports such as football and soccer are played at a massive scale and followed as a religion. Although all IPL teams have their official merchandise partners, the market for unofficial and counterfeit merchandise also thrives.

Kukreja cites a 2019 Forbes report that says the overall counterfeit products industry generates $500 billion each year. Of this, $5.2 billion is from India. “Some western countries have strong copyright laws, so people can’t sell fake jerseys,” he says. India, too, has laws around copyright and intellectual property rights, but falls short on their implementation.

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First Published: Apr 26 2023 | 2:30 PM IST

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