By  on July 5, 2007

Federation Internationale de Football Association, the world governing body of soccer, is out to turn itself into a brand.

With the help of Global Brands Group, the organization plans to open thousands of stores and create multiple lifestyle lines, all under the name of FIFA, organizer of the Women's World Cup 2007 in China and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

"We felt that FIFA really is the umbrella brand for all of soccer," said Gary Schoenfeld, co-chief executive officer and president of Global Brands Group. "It's been around more than 100 years as the organizing body for football, as it's known in most of the world, from kids' soccer leagues to the ultimate men's World Cup."

FIFA increased its retail sales to more than $2 billion in 2006 from $550 million in 1994, and Global Brands Group thinks it can become a $5 billion business over the course of their eight-year partnership.

In 2005, FIFA appointed Global Brands Group to be its worldwide exclusive master licensee and store operator for FIFA-branded retail destinations from 2007 to 2014, with the option to renew for another eight years. With corporate headquarters in Singapore, Global Brands Group is an international brand management, retail and licensing company.

"We describe ourselves first and foremost as brand managers, and we are turning a chapter in terms of what licensing means," Schoenfeld said. "We are providing a complete view of how to execute a brand, bringing it to retail, engaging directly with consumers and recognizing that FIFA can be an incredible lifestyle brand."

Schoenfeld went to FIFA with plans to dramatically grow its merchandising and licensing businesses with two key strategies: retail and merchandise.

"It is a global opportunity because it is truly a global sport," Schoenfeld said. "We want to support the FIFA brand and promote the sport, and we have exclusive access to all of the historical FIFA trademarks, including all of the previous World Cups, which gives us the opportunity to create a very compelling and unique retail destination."

Over the next several years, Schoenfeld plans to open 2,000 to 3,000 stores globally with local partners. More than half are slated to be shops-in-shops, although he would like to have hundreds of freestanding stores as well (at 1,500 to 3,000 square feet), around 100 stores in airports (starting at 1,000 square feet) and five to 10 flagships (at 4,000 to 8,000 square feet), in South Africa, Dubai, London, Mexico City, Tokyo and Shanghai."I'm very much a proponent of brands controlling their retail experience," said Schoenfeld, who was president and ceo of Vans before its 2004 acquisition by VF Corp. "When VF bought us, we had 150 of our own stores."

The first FIFA shop-in-shop is scheduled to open before the end of the year, in conjunction with a South African retailer with which the group plans to open more than 100 shops-in-shops in the host country for the next men's World Cup. The first airport store will open in January in the new international terminal in Singapore.

The stores will carry FIFA products and merchandise from other soccer brands.

"There are already great soccer performance brands — Adidas leads the market, but there's also Nike and Umbro — and our stores will carry any great soccer brands," said Schoenfeld. "Our product will come from not performance, but rather lifestyle and heritage."

Schoenfeld plans a price range from comparable with to slightly higher than Adidas; T-shirts will wholesale for around $10 to $18, and knits and woven tops for about $20 to $35.

The company is developing seven FIFA apparel sub-brands:

-- FIFA event products, such as those for South Africa 2010. "We're looking for ways to transfer the event to lifestyle products that are launching for spring '08 and will build up to 2010," Schoenfeld said. "South Africa has such great imagery, plus socially there is so much interest in what is going on in South Africa, and we want to convey that."

-- A vintage collection, using historical marks dating back to the first World Cup in 1930.

-- Contemporary interpretations of the historical marks. "The merchandise can be inspired by the teams that played, where the World Cups were played and what was happening in the host country at that time," Schoenfeld said. "For example, England hosted and won the 1966 World Cup — look at fashion and music in England in the Sixties — but the logos for that World Cup haven't been available since 1966."

-- A Champions range of who won past World Cups. "Brazil has won five World Cups, and there are five different stories that can be told as they won at five different points in time and in five different places," Schoenfeld said.-- FIFA Code, named after the gaming world, specifically FIFA Street. "We are creating an apparel collection utilized within the FIFA Street game that will come out in spring 2008 with a new edition," Schoenfeld said. "It's much more urban lifestyle-influenced."

-- A generic FIFA graphics package, not specific to any event or historical marks, that will be primarily T-shirts.

-- Other FIFA events product beyond the FIFA World Cup, including September's Women's World Cup in China, which will sell at the events, through e-commerce and in FIFA stores, when they open.

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