Counterfeits in the sports industry has gotten worse in the last few years. Recently, we’ve seen the designs of top football teams’ jerseys leaked months before they are out and counterfeit jerseys being sold before the official one.
In early 2016, Barcelona FC's new designs (neither confirmed by the club nor Nike) for 2016-17 were leaked 6 months before launch. The biggest worry, apart from the original designs leaking, is the clubs and the main suppliers of sports equipment like Nike, Adidas or Puma seeing how every day there are more illegal alternatives to their chain of production.
Until now, the distribution of this kind of counterfeit products was through street hawkers. Street hawkers, invariably found in the same, tourist-populated areas, could be physically arrested, and their items seized. Online commerce, by contrast, allows the consumer to get a counterfeit jersey sent to their home in a few clicks. Sites are many, and owners often untraceable, operating through false identities. The problem becomes even more complex where anonymous sellers use platforms like Amazon, Makeitfutbol, eBay, Alibaba, and even apps like WhatsApp an WeChat.
With e-commerce growing (online commerce sales in Spain in the second quarter of 2015 reached a record-breaking sum of 4,946 million euros, 27% more than the previous year, according to the latest CNMC data), football jersey counterfeiting increases, while the quality of the fakes is higher and higher. The risk is therefore ever-greater to sport clubs, sponsors, genuine manufacturers and resellers and even athletes, all of whom have a reputation of quality to uphold. Brand protection strategies must be implemented by companies, to stop the selling of counterfeits often up to 5 times cheaper than genuine jerseys.