Fastbreak Into Licensing

Growing popularity of Harlem Globetrotters leads to new merchandising subsidiary

When you’re hot, you’re hot. And the Harlem Globetrotters are sizzling. Just five years removed from bankruptcy proceedings, the organization today is so popular, it recently formed a new licensing and merchandising subsidiary, Globetrotter Properties, to oversee the growing marketing and sale of Globetrotter brand merchandise. The function, previously handled outside the company, will now be managed by Colleen Leniham, president of Globetrotter Properties. Leniham says marketing and promoting merchandise in house will allow for better product development and increase the choice of produces for Globetrotter fans.

Globetrotter team merchandise, including replica jerseys, T-shirts and hats, are manufactured by Reebok and are currently sold at the 200 North American arenas the team will visit during its 1998 tour. Merchandise can also be purchased at the Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, which the team has through a five-year agreement with Walt Disney World. The new subsidiary plans to make team apparel available through retailers such as Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Footlocker stores within the next year.

“We’ll now be able to market our merchandise to other places beyond the arena,” Leniham says. “And since we have agreements with companies like Disney and Reebok, it allows us to do some co-branded and co-licensed products.” Leniham also has an agreement with NBA Properties to include Globetrotter merchandise in their spring catalog, Nothin’ But Hoops. Disney, meanwhile, is introducing a new line of team apparel at the Orlando store.

Owner and chairman Mannie Jackson purchased the team in 1993 after it had fallen into financial disarray. Jackson says the company had gross revenues last year in excess of $40 million and net profits of $5-$6 million. In the past three years, merchandise and licensed product sales have increased over 200%. “We had over $2.5 million in merchandise sales for 1997.” Lenihan says. “For 1998, we’re looking for double-digit growth that would put us over $3 million.”

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