As the birthplace of modern football, Europe has long held an emotive connection to the beautiful game. For nearly 70 years, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has been the custodian of the world’s most popular sport in Europe, representing 55 national football associations. Today, the stars of European footballing talent are showcased in the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and UEFA Europa Conference League competitions. TEAM Marketing has played a key role in supporting these elite club competitions, which see the continent’s best teams battle it out on the pitch.
The UEFA Champions League is the ultimate stage of European football. With 380 million regular viewers, it is arguably the most popular club competition in any sport. UEFA Champions League qualification remains a defining goal for many European clubs, achieved by less than 3% each season. And being part of this elite generates millions of euros for clubs in prize money, broadcasting, and sponsorship opportunities.
But these prestigious club competitions also generate vital funds for UEFA to develop football and make it more accessible. In the 2019/20 season, they accounted for 90% of revenues, with more than €400 million generated from sponsorship, merchandising, and licensing. Sustaining this level of commercial success relies upon instantly recognizable symbols, from the call to arms of the UEFA Champions League anthem, to quality merchandise that connects fans with the tournaments and their competitors.
Fans that follow the best of European club football expect corresponding quality and authenticity from official merchandise. But the status and popularity of these competitions also make them a target for counterfeiters. Indeed, the cost of fake sporting goods in Europe is estimated at more than half a billion euros annually. TEAM Marketing wanted to provide UEFA with security holograms and hangtags that could be used to authenticate merchandise, allowing simple verification by both fans and brand inspectors.
TEAM Marketing sought a partner that could offer a complete licensing technology solution and selected OpSec in a competitive process. The contract covered licensed merchandise for all major UEFA club competitions that TEAM Marketing supports and included the following:
Brand Licensing: OpSec deployed its digital licensing platform, already well proven in the sports sector, to manage the design approval process
Connected Products: OpSec generates unique digital identities for each licensed product, to enable consumer authentication of products and the potential to trace products throughout channels
OpSec Protect: a highly secure hologram for each piece of licensed merchandise, with multi-layered optical security, product, and licensee-specific data, and QR code technology for fan engagement
OpSec Enhance: brand enhancement components are embedded into product labels to provide a premium brand look and feel and provide fans with more instinctive product authenticity
Using the OpSec digital licensing technology, TEAM Marketing can quickly review product and marketing imagery, video commercials, and social media graphics for omnichannel marketing campaigns. The platform streamlines the approval process by allowing specific design features or comments to be annotated or added on the material submitted to the system.
“OpSec has provided us with a strong product offering which supports licensees to protect their UEFA Club Competition branded licensed products against counterfeits and allows authorities to easily authenticate and seize counterfeit products. In addition, the consumers themselves can easily authenticate the purchased item and allows UEFA to engage with the global fan base.
The Insights approvals’ platform enables us to centralise all product and marketing approval requests across the entire Licensing partner family which has been a more efficient and effective approvals process.”
Giulia Piran, Licensing Partnerships Manager at TEAM Marketing
Digital identities connect product licenses with official merchandise. Each label is assigned a unique code that can be reconciled to a licensing agreement. This identifier is also used by fans to check products are genuine.
Recognizable elements in the hologram are easy for fans and brand inspectors to authenticate but challenging for counterfeiters to replicate. Created using highly secure electron beam lithography, security features for fans include sleek monochrome logos and 3D flare effects for a striking visual signal of product authenticity. Logos switch in color when rotated 90 degrees and, when placed under a microscope, holograms reveal micro text and distinctive repeated patterns for professional authentication.
By adopting an integrated approach, TEAM Marketing has streamlined workflows and added distinctive security to official UEFA products. Fans and brand inspectors have a straightforward way of confirming product authenticity, regardless of product category. TEAM Marketing also has other options available to them in the OpSec portfolio, with the potential to add variable data and security for a wider range of label designs and details.