Printers promoted to the Premiership

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Monday 10 June 2019

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Last summer the England men’s national football team famously defied the nation’s low expectations to reach the semi-finals of the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia.

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Hollywood Monster’s flag for Aston Villa

And while the women’s national football team have just kicked off their own campaign for glory at the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup in France, The Centre for Retail Research England said the men’s team’s success last year had resulted in an £800m boost to retail spending just prior to the semi-final, compared with 2014’s lacklustre performance.

Further huge increases in spending on food and drink were reported as a result of reaching the semis and print was another major beneficiary, with spikes in demand seen for replica kits, St George’s flags and all sorts of related promotional merchandise.

And this is before taking into account the extra newspapers and special editions, books and magazines, promotional campaign materials, wallcharts, graphics and POS that was produced to report, commemorate and celebrate the team’s success.

While the World Cup was a clear boon for the industry, then, there have been plenty of other footie triumphs across the nation over recent weeks that have resulted in spikes in demand for print, including Manchester City’s Premier League and FA Cup trophies and Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League final win.

Immediately after Liverpool’s victory, the team’s official store was selling a range of t-shirts, flags, stickers, mousemats and mugs bearing ‘Champions of Europe’ branding.

The Liverpool Echo, meanwhile, published three special ‘Madrid edition’ newspapers for football fans that had made the journey to the Spanish capital for the final. The title, which is owned by Reach, used Bermont, the existing printer in Madrid that Reach uses for the international edition of the Mirror, to produce the souvenir editions.

Reach circulation director John Howard says the publisher has previous form with this sort of job.

“Going back a few years we printed the Mirror in South Africa. That went well; shame about the England team’s performance!

“However, since the advent of the online offer, initiatives like printing overseas for a sustained period like a World Cup struggle to be cost- effective.

“We gave Russia and Brazil a miss, but this one was just three issues so we should see a positive return.”

Capturing the cultural zeitgeist is often key to profiting from football-related opportunities, as Southam-based Mask-arade, which specialises in photographic masks of celebrities for parties and other events, knows all too well.

The company’s official Gareth Southgate mask became a bestseller during England’s World Cup campaign last summer and commercial director Ray Duffy says that Mo Salah and Jürgen Klopp masks have proven popular since Liverpool won the Champions League.

“We were glued to the TV before the Champions League final to see who we’d have to make more of come the Monday morning,” says Duffy.

“Over the last few weeks [demand has] gone through the roof and has outstripped our supply. We have actually been making masks on our desks here to fulfil customer orders; that’s for our trade customers who sell via Amazon and other e-shops as well as for our customers with bricks and mortar shops.

“Some of our customers had anticipated [the match result], with people taking 1,000 of Klopp and 1,000 of Salah – they were taking a gamble on what would happen. I’m happy to say they all sold out and they came and asked for more.

“We have to be reactive but we get great feedback from our customers which is really helpful – we’re selling a lot of Spice Girls stuff at the minute and Trump is also huge for us currently. The fashion changes all the time and we’ve got to turn it on in a matter of days.”

Birmingham-based large-format specialist Hollywood Monster helped its client Millennium Point dress its building with a giant 24x17m England flag ahead of the team’s World Cup semi-final. More recently it completed a job last month for Aston Villa’s victorious Championship play-off final against Derby County at Wembley.

“We did a giant unveil graphic for them which we dropped from the roof five minutes before kick-off. At the side of that they had fireworks going off – it creates a lot more drama and a bit more intensity. The clubs want to create a bit of hype before the game, especially on big matches like play-off finals,” says managing director Simon Mckenzie, who points out that printed collateral is “a massive part” of any major sporting event.

“Imagine watching the London Marathon with no branding across the street or the Grand Prix with bare metal bridges – it just wouldn’t look right,” he says.

“I think your eye is used to looking at sponsorships and seeing big signs and graphics. It would be really alien to us now if we went to a big sporting event and it had no print, it would look cold and uninspiring.”

During the World Cup, Leeds-based Northern Flags created flags with an England waistcoat design, which resulted in the business featuring on the BBC Look North regional news show.

The firm’s managing director Iain Clasper-Cotte agrees that print is integral to bringing major sporting events to life.

“You only have to look at the streets of Liverpool when the [victory parade] bus was doing its tour through, how many supporters flags were going through there. It was the image of the coloured smoke and all of the moving banners and flags that showed the excitement that all those people were having.

“And if you look at a typical major football event now, all of the major clubs are competing with each other for the razzmatazz and excitement of the event.”

He concludes: “The people that organise these events know that if everybody has got something to shout and wave about, it looks great on television and makes it look exciting.” 

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