NEW YORK — With Sunday’s showdown between Germany and Brazil for the World Cup championship in Yokohama, Japan just days away, soccer fans and athletic companies are showing their true colors. Organizers expect worldwide sales of World Cup merchandise to exceed $1.3 billion.
Thousands poured into Istanbul’s city center to watch the Turkey-Brazil semifinal match Wednesday on a huge outdoor screen and many locals still wore their Turkey team jerseys and face paint hours after the 1-0 loss. Fans were out in force since Turkey’s Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit had declared Turkish workers could take a half day to watch the game. Instead of special soccer displays, several Istanbul stores hung the Turkish flag in their windows.
Adidas,a sponsor of the German team, shipped out 500 World Cup survival kits — red plastic briefcases imprinted with “FANATIC” and packed with a soccer shirt, socks, and other necessities — to artists, designers, the media and “other people with their pulse on what’s going on,” said Abby Guyer, trend marketing manager. Word spread fast, and once Colette, who runs the acclaimed store in Paris by the same name, caught wind of it, she phoned for a few FANATIC cases to display in her windows.
To rally interest in New York, Adidas compiled and distributed 20,000 guides of the best bars in the city to watch World Cup soccer, depending on what country’s team someone was favoring. The company passed out some guides at its opening night party at the Bronwyn Keenan art gallery for photographer Kai Regan, whose soccer-oriented show runs through Wednesday. Adidas will host a soccer tournament and cookout in New York on Saturday for 16 teams, including ones representing retailers Stussy and Supreme, and The Fader and Black Book magazines.
Adidas has sold out of all of its replica jerseys, with Germany, Japan and France among the bestsellers. In Japan, Adidas sold more than 500,000 jerseys. On some days, people waited in long lines outside stores, where retailers sold 15,000 units or more on a single day for upward of $120 a pop. Japan, the second largest sporting goods market in the world, is a key area for Adidas.
At Fila’s store in Seoul, South Korea, U.S. captain Claudio Reyna made in-store appearances and plans to visit American retailers in the next month or so. Sales of soccer shirts and shorts have been strong during the Cup tournament, a Fila spokeswoman said.
Throughout the Cup, Nike held pre-dawn “viewing parties” for “hundreds” at its corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., where some staffers changed their team jerseys from one game to the next depending on the outcome, a Nike spokeswoman said. After one of its sponsored teams, the U.S., faltered, employees switched to South Korean garb, another team they support, and now the Nike-sponsored Brazil team is its favored attire.
Puma partnered with the Terence Conran shop in Manhattan to be the exclusive retailer selling its “Shudoh” World Cup-inspired apparel and footwear. Both tied in with the all-soccer issue of the fashion magazine Fidget. Shudoh means “the way to become master of soccer” in Japanese. The collection, which includes soccer jerseys and shin guards, is being sold through July 7.
In London, women sported England soccer jerseys, T-shirts and Union Jack rugby shirts to watch their team lose to Brazil last Friday. Between 7:30-9:30 a.m., what is normally rush hour, streets and tube cars were deserted, taxis were nowhere to be found and buses were practically empty. People on the streets shouted to passing buses to update drivers on the match.
English fans, still on a high from the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, were convinced this was to be their year to triumph. Schools canceled their morning assemblies and businesses suspended their early meetings. At the Covent Garden Flower Market, vendors set up small TV screens next to the buckets of roses and irises. More than 25,000 pubs opened early for the 7:30 am kickoff, serving up eggs, bacon, sausage and beer.
Even tennis great Venus Williams shared the spotlight Friday morning with soccer. Screens were set up at Wimbledon so guests could watch the World Cup during a benefit breakfast, while Williams and other tennis stars looked on, a Reebok spokesman said. Meanwhile, in central London, at a Brazilian bar called Salsa, fans decked in yellow and green climbed on top of phone booths and onto each other’s shoulders waving flags and cheering. Police helicopters buzzed overhead to keep an eye on the crowds.
Stateside, during England’s game, Emma Taylor, a writer for Nerve.com, turned out at Lower East Side hangout Smithfield with her parents. They’d bought the $60 knockoff soccer jersey she wore at one of Heathrow International Airport’s duty-free shops because the official jerseys were sold out “in every shop in town” in London. The fact that the shirts have England’s flag and not the U.K.’s Union Jack probably adds to their appeal, she said. Her father liked the look so much that he took the flag of England from the wall at Smithfield and wrapped it around his daughter after England scored.
Others showed their soccer spirit in different ways. Two Upper East Side au paires strode down Fifth Avenue with images of the German flag painted with makeup on their faces.
Although reigning world champion France was knocked out of the competition in the first round, soccer madness continued in Paris. A giant TV was set up in front of City Hall, where thousands of soccer fanatics — including many in soccer jerseys — turn out to watch the games. Last Saturday, thousands of fans thronged to watch the quarterfinal match between Senegal and Turkey, won by the latter with a dramatic golden goal in overtime. The result sent fans into euphoria, chanting, waving flags and driving through the streets of Paris honking their horns.
A similar scenario played out in Italy. During the three matches that Italy played, the country came to a standstill. People filled bars, homes, squares that had monitors broadcasting the game, or tuned in on the radio.
All matches were followed by heated polemics on the referees who blatantly penalized the team, but at the same time, the cities were in tilt. Cars honked their horns like crazy and flags flapped everywhere.”