Gameday Merchandising takes In-Stadium Sales to a new level—Online

    By Michael Goodwin | Small Business

    Sports can break your heart.Think of the Mighty Casey striking out. Think of the Brooklyn Dodgers moving to L.A. Think of sports fans living so far from their home-team's stadium that the local TV station doesn't carry the games.

    Worse yet, how are those fans gonna get the gear?

    Gameday Merchandising's Ecommerce division has an app for that.

    Ecommerce Is Critical

    Gameday Merchandising was created to provide a turnkey retail solution for sports teams and large-scale stadium events. Say you're the Golden State Warriors. You know that fans who come to the game will want to go home with gear, only you already have enough on your plate winning games to worry about running a bunch of retail stores.

    Now imagine you're a Golden State Warriors fan. You go to the stadium and find at least one Warriors store with Gameday's staff running it, Gameday's staff purchasing the products to be sold, Gameday's staff doing everything on behalf of the Warriors. Only it looks like the Warriors are doing it.

    Gameday—a multi-million-dollar company founded in 2005 (under another name)—has been hugely successful. It's run merchandising for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. It's done multiple NBA All-Star games, the Women's World Cup in China, lots of NBA and NFL championships. Denver Broncos. Oklahoma City Thunder. Golden State Warriors. Dallas Mavericks. Etc.

    Even so, it didn't take long for Gameday to realize that something was missing: online capability. "Ecommerce is a critical element," says Gameday President Alan Fey. "Today it's just assumed that if you're going to do anything with anyone, there's got to be an ecommerce application to go with it. That wasn't as true when we started, but now, if you don't have an ecommerce solution you're seen as being behind the times."

    He Even Writes Code

    Victor Rubio is Director of Ecommerce for Gameday Merchandising. That means he does all the design and development for all the various ecommerce stores in Gameday's empire. He even writes code.

    Victor joined Gameday in 2011, but he was in the game long before that. "I've been working in sports ecommerce since 1998," he says. "Initially I focused on the soccer market, and I built a bilingual world cup soccer merchandise store for Univision, the big Spanish-American-language television network. Then, in 2001, I started working with different teams. My partner and I ended up providing ecommerce services for Anschutz Entertainment, which is the company that owns the Staples Center. Then we built the first Lakers-Clippers-Kings web store. Initially, Gameday hired us as outside contractors to develop sites for them. Then, about three or four years ago they decided that they wanted to bring us in-house."

    Victor's responsibilities at Gameday involve managing the online ecommerce component for all its different teams and events. "If we're doing in-stadium merchandising for the Thunder, say, and we're allowed to have the ecommerce rights, I build an online store that matches the products that are available in the stadium. Then we manage the customer service, the fulfillment logistics, the order processing,everything that has to do with taking an order and sending the merchandise to the customer. We do all of that in-house."

    Fluent in Yahoo

    From the beginning, Victor had a vision. "I wanted to focus on providing the same experience someone would receive in the stadium," he explains, "only online. I wanted people to be able to order hot market items immediately as they became available. For instance, if a team wins a championship or makes the playoffs, or if a player does something special like winning the scoring title, I want to give the fans who aren't able to make it to the game, who might be located in other areas, the opportunity to experience the same level of merchandising. That means that all the inventory we sell at the event we also offer online."

    Thanks to his formidable technical skills and broad experience, Victor was able to build sites that did just that. "I'm fluent in Yahoo technology and RTML," he says. "So I would sit down with a new partner and we'd decide if we wanted the store to look exactly like the team's own web site, or if we wanted it to have a slightly different experience. Then, working in RTML, I'd design the graphics for the different sites, get that approved from the wireframe to the final look-and-feel. Then I'd take that design and write code to turn it into a functional Yahoo store."


    Currently Victor is managing 20 successful online stores, but getting the ecommerce division on its feet was a challenge. The hardest part was figuring out shipping logistics for all the different teams, with merchandise scattered across different cities in the United States and Canada. How do you take 20 different stores, funnel all those orders into one CRM management system, provide fulfillment solutions for each of those locations,and manage third-party drop-shipments on those sites as well?

    Victor went with OrderMotion. "All of the different Yahoo ecommerce stores provide the front-end transactional piece, and all those orders funnel into OrderMotion, which handles everything from updating and decrementing the inventory to customer service and analytical reporting. That allows us to create the logic we need to fulfill products from different areas, and from third-party drop-shippers, and it even notifies us when inventory is running low. It's been a really good solution for us."

    Going Mobile

    The next step in Gameday's ecommerce business plan involves offering in-stadium mobile apps for all its ecommerce sites. It's an exciting move.

    "We're rolling it outright now, in time for the holidays," Victor declares. "It's no secret that mobile is a major part of people's lives, and a mobile solution will provide the best merchandising options to our customers. We expect to see a significant increase in sales. The second piece that goes with mobile is providing in-stadium technology so customers can purchase merchandise at the stadium using their smart phones, and have that merchandise delivered to their seat, or their suite. We'll allow the customer to look at products and place an order during the first quarter, and we'll deliver it to their seat location by the end of the third quarter. Of course there are always technical issues. Some stadiums have better Wi-Fi and cell coverage than others. But this is really going to take in-stadium merchandising to a new level."

    A Number In Multi-Millions

    How high is that new level likely to be, especially compared to the Gameday mothership's multi-million-dollar business?

    "Gameday Merchandising probably accounts for the lion's share of that cash flow," Victor admits, "but the ecommerce division is a multi-million-dollar company by itself—just a smaller number of multi-millions."
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