Category: The Insider

THE INSIDER: Memorabilia Is A Rookie’s Game

Here at Icons.com, we make a point to not only sign with the biggest superstars on the planet but to select the cream of the crop from the next generation as well, writes Sales Manager, Ben Soley.

After all, a lot can change in a year. Over the last 12 months, France displaced Germany as world champions, Luka Modric became the first man in 11 years to dethrone Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the World Player of the Year, and Liverpool qualified for a UEFA Champions League final… okay, so maybe not everything changes.

If you’re Callum Hudson-Odoi, the last year has seen you promoted to Chelsea’s first team; make your debut; start matches in the UEFA Europa League, FA Cup and Premier League, getting an assist on each debut; be constantly linked with a move to European behemoth Bayern Munich; and get your first senior England cap. Not forgetting, of-course, becoming an Icon.

It’s almost a year to the day that Callum became an Icon, conducting his first signing with us in London on May 14th, 2018. Since then his rise has been as rapid as he is. Indeed, his four goals in nine UEFA Europa League appearances puts him among the top scorers for the competition and is a clear indication of his undoubted quality. Over the same period, Hudson-Odoi has outsold traditional bestsellers on our website. Items signed by the Chelsea and England starlet have sold quicker and in more quantities than memorabilia signed by Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and many more established stars.

We’re regularly asked how we pick and choose who we sign for Icons.com. Hudson-Odoi’s talent is not questioned but of all the talented youngsters out there, we opted for Callum because he hit a sweet spot for us.

Firstly, he plays for a top-six team with a solid international fan base. Chelsea fans have been crying out for young talent to break through at their club so Callum’s rise presented us with the chance to provide that considerable supporter base with a name they are interested in. Our exclusive contract with Eden Hazard also means we have a strong database of Chelsea fans to target. He also fits in well with our licenses – as an Adidas player we can include Callum’s signed boots in our Official UEFA Europa League (an Adidas-sponsored tournament) range. As a member of the England setup, we can add his products to our Official England Licensed Memorabilia range. Finally, Callum has a social media presence and can promote his signing with Icons to help us sell his products.

In baseball, rookie trading cards are often valued higher based on the limit to supply – the player’s first year being the only year for which the athlete is considered a rookie. Babe Ruth’s 1916 rookie card sold for $717,000 at auction in 2016, in the same year ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson’s rookie card sold for $667,149. Mickey Mantle, another great of the game, has a rookie card from 1951 which is now worth a staggering $750,000.

But why? Many athletes’ rookie year isn’t spectacularly successful. An athlete’s appearance may also radically change and their rookie year look is rarely how they are best remembered. Perhaps this the point. For many collectors it boils down to the bragging rights, the idea that you can claim that you were there first, you saw that athlete’s potential earlier than anyone else and you saw something special in them from the off.

Then, of course, there is the financial benefit. It’s a textbook example of buying low and selling high. Last month, I wrote about women’s football and the importance of getting on board early as it explodes in popularity. This is much the same. In order to yield the biggest returns, you must get the item at its lowest cost value, and that is best done at the start before an athlete has achieved greatness in the eyes of everyone else.

Which brings us back to Icons and Callum Hudson-Odoi. To the untrained eye, it may look like we got lucky with Hudson-Odoi. But Icons have a proven track-record of finding stars among the youth. Sergio Aguero first signed for us while he was plying his trade at Atletico Madrid; Gareth Bale was still at Spurs when he signed for us first; Neymar Jr was at Santos. And then there’s the small matter of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, signed by Icons at 18 and 19-years-old respectively. Icons are in fact Messi’s longest serving commercial partner – longer even than Adidas.

You see, it’s one thing to get ahead in business, but to stay ahead you must look to the future. Admittedly, it’s not without its risks. But those risks are minimised by our staff’s extensive knowledge of sport and our acute sense of what will sell and what won’t.

I’ll leave you with this. Ajax’s former head of talent development Ruben Jongkind recently told the following story: “When FC Barcelona were so good and so dominant seven or eight years ago, I was walking with [Johan] Cruyff on the training ground at La Masia. He told me: ‘Everybody is looking at the first team and I am looking at the academy. Things are not right and they have to change.'”

We have the same mentality here at Icons.com. We never rest on our laurels and we are always looking to the future for the next set of superstars and Ballon d’Or winners.

We don’t just sign the Icons, we scout them too.



THE INSIDER: The Rise and Rise of Women’s Football

What a fortnight it has been for women’s football, writes Icons.com Sales Manager, Ben Soley. Amid the feverish anticipation for this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, club-level attendance records were broken and investment in the sport continued to reach new heights both on and off the pitch.

It is becoming increasingly evident that women’s football has a huge potential for rapid and wide-ranging growth, as well as the ability to become a very lucrative industry in its own right. And, as with any industry exhibiting these trends, now appears to be as good a time as any to climb aboard the bandwagon and invest in an area of sport experiencing an explosion in popularity.

Two Sundays ago saw perhaps the most prominent and staggering example of how far the women’s game has progressed. At Atletico Madrid’s new home – the setting of this year’s men’s UEFA Champions League final – a world record was set for the highest attendance (60,739) at a women’s club game.

To put that into context, there were over 7,000 more fans were in attendance for the women’s game in Madrid than were at the home of Real Betis, as Lionel Messi stunned the world with a magical hat-trick.

FC Barcelona Femení’s victory means Atletico’s lead at the top of the table is cut to three points with just six games to go. The evident enthusiasm for these fixtures only enhances the reputations of its stars, like Lieke Martens, a recent Icons signee.

While it might go without saying that more television viewers will have tuned in to watch Messi and company than Martens and her team, the numbers at the Wanda Metropolitano paint a very real picture of women’s football as it begins to benefit from larger platforms and more stable and respectable infrastructure.

On top of this, coverage of women’s football is vastly improving. The Telegraph this week launched a dedicated Women’s Sport supplement and a daily section in its printed publication. The initiative has been widely celebrated and has led to comments that echo Clare Balding’s affirmation that “the tide is turning”.

This all comes on the back of a commercially successful European Championship in 2017, which was watched by a record-setting cumulative TV audience of 178 million. Now it’s reported that another record has been broken as nine countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Japan and South Africa, have submitted formal bids to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The next step forward is clear. In order for these enterprises to become sustainable the women’s game still needs yet more funding from large corporations, the types behind the big-name brand sponsorships that power men’s sports.

Enter Barclays. A long-serving partner to the Premier League, Barclays last week penned a £10m sponsorship deal with the Women’s Super League (WSL), the top tier of women’s club football in England. The groundbreaking deal sets a precedent for other big-money deals in this country and around Europe. Beverage industry giants are also leading the way with prominent partnerships between Budweiser and the England Lionesses and Gatorade and Manchester City.

Here at Icons, we work closely with such blue chip partners, such as Mastercard, Pepsi and Heineken, helping them promote their sponsorships of tournaments such as the UEFA Champions League. Big name brands have the spending power to help support women’s football, to help it grow, but they are also understandably interested in a return on their investment.

It is clear now that there is rising interest in the women’s game, led by these visible and record-setting increases in gate numbers and TV viewing figures. What should follow, naturally, is increased investment from sponsors wanting to get in early and capitalise on the sport’s growth.

Earlier this year, we met with The Football Association to discuss the Official England Licensed Memorabilia range and licence. We agreed there were huge positives to take away from the Lionesses’ success at the recent European Championships and that the team has great potential. It’s a young, hungry and undeniably exciting team. Potential like this always has the ability to excite potential partners and sponsors on the lookout for areas of rapid growth where they can find a speedy return on investment.  

A World Cup year is a crucial time for any sport, but especially affects one that so often experiences scepticism from outsiders. With women’s football on a remarkable and culturally-important rise in the build-up to this summer’s tournament in France, clubs, brands and media outlets are actively increasing their involvement in various ways.

We can see the potential the sport has – that’s why we signed with one of its brightest stars earlier this year. Perhaps now it is time for more brands and corporations to sit up and pay attention.


See the full range of Lieke Martens signed memorabilia by clicking here.

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