IT’S OFFICIAL: Official League has teamed up with soccer team Borussia Dortmund — better known as BVB — to drum up its North American fan base. Stateside, fandom has long been a matter of merchandise, in that leading teams and struggling ones alike create a plethora of team-inspired products for viewers and ticket holders, who are inclined to wear the names and numbers of their favorite players.
The pairing of the Portland, Ore.-based sports-friendly brand Official League and BVB will include licensed merchandise expected to debut in September or October. The union comes as the licensed sports business continues to grow internationally. Pegged at $22.3 billion in 2020, the sector is expected to be valued at $27.2 billion by 2026, according to a Research and Markets report. The U.S. market for licensed sports merchandise last year was estimated to total $5.4 billion, comprising 23.7 percent of the overall global market for licensed sports merchandise.
Launched in February, Official League has racked up partners in the NBA, USL and Major League Rugby, among other sports. To gain more attention in the crowded field of athletic and team-centric brands, Official League rolled out the Official League Collector’s Club, a hat-of the-month club subscription service. The company, which was started by Alan Miller and has financial support from the Neil Leibman, chief operating officer of Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers, and his Top Tier Sports’ investment partners, is focusing on local, limited-edition and exclusive team merchandise instead of a swath of licensed items.
The BVB deal is a combination of the new and the established. The German football club has roots that date back to 1909. With an annual turnover of 400 million euro and 16.5 million Instagram followers, Borussia Dortmund recently advanced to the second round of the DfB Pokal, a German knockout football competition that is held annually by the German Football Association, thanks largely to BVB forward Donyell Malen, who was involved in the team’s all three goals in defeating 1860 Munich.
The new BVB products, which will include six limited-edition hats at the start, will be offered to consumers starting in September. For the first year, the merchandise will only be sold on Official League’s website, according to a company spokeswoman, who declined comment regarding first-year projected wholesale volume. Fans of @bvbshop on Instagram are out of luck since they won’t find the new hats there.
Official League and BVB were connected through Collide, a Los Angeles-based brand strategy consultancy that focuses on innovation and culture.