AFL’s merchandise marketing competition; who has the competitive edge?

Last year, Richmond and Carlton topped on the marketing competition for sold on-field apparel. Both clubs accumulated more than a quarter of the AFL’s sales combines in one of football’s most relevant off-field battlegrounds.

Data released to AFL clubs saw back-to-back premiership Tigers capitalized on their success by accounting for 15.14 per cent of sales for on-field merchandise. This includes jumpers and all match-day apparel from players and coaches. Consequently, the sales placed them at No.1 in the competitions, which is considered likely outcome given their success and the supportive fanbase.

On the other others, the Blues surprisingly placed second on football’s unseen ladder, despite just finishing 11th from the last season and missed the finals. They tallied 11.73 per cent of sales in a huge tick from the club’s growing support base, which last week hit a new membership record.

The major factor affecting the surge of sales is that both clubs are sponsored by Puma, as one of the world’s leading sports brands locking in long-term deals with the Victorian powerhouses.
Prior to the 2017 season, Richmond signed with Puma for a five-year partnership, keeping the relationship with the club through its golden three-flag era. On the other hand, the Blues agreed to a landmark 10-year contract with Puma ahead of 2020. Having the ability to swiftly deliver high quality gear within Australia, the clubs hurdled on positive sentiment ahead of the season and then throughout, including the Tigers’ special premiership jumper following their Grand Final win over Geelong.

Together the clubs combined for a massive 26.87 per cent of merchandise sales in the course of the competition, with West Coast (7.97 per cent) in third position overall, Geelong fourth (7.7 per cent) and Collingwood fifth (7.69 per cent).

Meanwhile, newest clubs Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney, were at the bottom of the list but a surprise was Hawthorn, with two of the smallest membership bases, which placed in third last position with 2.52 per cent of sales.

According to the Pacho Gutstein, general manager of Puma Oceania, “We’re pleased to see Richmond and Carlton leading the charge for on-field sales. It’s testament to the passion of the supporters of these two iconic clubs. We are incredibly proud to partner with both clubs and to welcome GWS to the Puma family for the 2021 season. And while the numbers are good, our motivation comes from working to continually provide the most innovative on-field gear for the clubs, the best service and the most stylish fan wear for their supporters.”

That being said, it was no denying that amid the wreaking havoc of the pandemic to the global economy, there was an off-season changeover among the competition. It particularly impacted clubs who had been tied to ISC, given the fact last year officially withdrew its support of AFL clubs amid the pandemic.

Among the clubs who were still linked with ISC last year but have moved elsewhere with some deals (including the Magpies’ move to Nike) already in the works are Fremantle, Collingwood, Sydney, St Kilda, Port Adelaide, Adelaide, Gold Coast and West Coast.

Meanwhile, the Swans also partnered with Nike, the Dockers joined forces with Burley Sekem and St Kilda and Gold Coast added to New Balance’s imprint with the AFL. Port Adelaide signed with Macron, an international sportswear brand largely associated with European soccer and the Crows are now with O’Neills, who have a base in Adelaide but come from an international background. West Coast crossed to Castore.
There were also major blows to the logistics as delays in shipments have meant the Eagles to train in ISC attire over the pre-season, yet the Castore apparel is expected by the end of this month. On other end Collingwood players have been pictured taping over their old training jumpers as they await the full Nike supplies in the next week. Among other esteemed brands tied to AFL clubs are Adidas (Hawthorn), Under Armour (Essendon), Cotton On (Geelong), ASICS (Western Bulldogs) and Canterbury (North Melbourne).