In Mumbai to launch the bold-blue new cricket uniform for Team India, Tarun Puri, managing director and general manager, Nike India, tells Sapna Agarwal that the company is upbeat on the replica sales potential of cricketing merchandise and that it sees an opportunity in Indian football. Excerpts:
How big is the replica sales market for you?
We are the official apparel sponsors for Manchester United and Arsenal teams. As such, replica sale or branded merchandise representing a sports icon or team is a very strong category for us. If you look at the retail business, replica merchandise accounts for 25-30 per cent sales.
You are the official apparel sponsor for India's One Day International team. What would replica sales for a cricket-crazy nation like India mean?
We see this category holding a huge potential in India. For the ODI team, we have the sky-blue uniform and related merchandise. We have also launched a new bold-blue kit today. What this means is an increase in cricket-related merchandise available with us at our stores.
In the recent past, we have also launched cricket footwear like the Air Zoom Yorker for fast bowlers and the Air Zoom Opener for batsmen. Other products in the cricket range include performance apparel and accessories, Indian cricket replica jerseys, training gear, kit bags and backpacks.
What was the need for the new uniform?
The new ODI kit reflects the change in the sport as cricket has changed from Test to T20. It has technology features like our patented DRI-FIT technology and bolder colours. It is the result of extensive research done on and off the field by Nike designers.
Some of the cricketers are associated with competing brands like Reebok, Adidas and Puma. As such, can you tell us how does the team association work for you?
Besides being the official apparel sponsors for ODI Team India, we also have direct association with players such as Zahir Khan, Virat Kohli, S Sreesanth and Dinesh Karthik. However, we see cricket as a much larger platform and being the official apparel sponsors for the ODI team is a matter of pride. It goes beyond being associated with individual players. It also gives us an added advantage as we have merchandising lines and a website called www.nikecricket.in.
Besides cricket, do you see the youth taking up any other sport?
We feel that Indian football will soon come of age. A lot more Indian youth are following the English Premier League and we see a lot more youngsters playing football now. We are also the apparel sponsors for the Indian football team. For the last four years, we have been promoting the sport along with the All-India Football Federation at the grass roots level through the Manchester United Premier Cup.
We are also associated with the Mumbai Schools Sports Association and the Delhi International Football Association. In fact, the growing popularity of football can be gauged from the fact that this year, for the first time after 20 years, an Indian football team will participate in the Asia Cup.
Are you noticing a slowdown in sales?
Our consumers are not price conscious, they look for quality products and hence price plays a lesser role. As such, the slowdown in the economy is actually an opportunity for retailers as there is a correction in rentals. This augurs well for our business and it will be reflected in our increased ad spends.