Wednesday, 12 September 2012

It’s all getting a bit Messi at Icons

Lionel Messi with Icons chairman Edward Freedman
Following such an amazing summer of sport, it’s no surprise that more Brits are looking up to sportspeople such as Mo Farah, Bradley Wiggins and Jessica Ennis. But sports memorabilia specialist claims demand for Lionel Messi goods continues to outshine all the other great names in sport.

Chairman Edward Freedman says this is because the Barcelona striker offers the full package.

“It’s a combination of everything, his success, the way he plays the game and his humility. He transcends general football rivalry. If you have a Messi signed shirt on your wall, no-one is going to argue about whether he’s any good or not,” he tells Sorted.

“He outsells the rest of the field by a ratio of four-to-one; in the UK, Spain, the US, the Middle East and the Far East, and is just as popular with men and women.”

Having said this, there’s always someone new waiting in the wings as the next best thing. “We think Neymar will be the next big thing. He plays in a flamboyant Brazilian way, will come to Europe soon and will end up being the poster boy for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil,” the company’s chairman speculates.

And his opinion counts. In the late 1980s, Edward was managing director of Tottenham Hotspur. He then moved to Manchester United and became managing director of Manchester United merchandising from 1992 onwards. Over the next six years, he transformed the commercial side of the club's operation and helped build Manchester United into one of the biggest brands in world football. He was also a key player in the formation of the Premier League.

Photo credit: adidas
We asked him why he thinks it is so important for people to have sporting heroes, and to collect items they have signed or once owned.

“Look at what has happened this summer in terms of sporting superstars, everyone has heroes, and Icons allows fans to get that little bit closer to them,” he replies.

“It’s been an amazing summer of sport for some of the stars we have on the site: Andres Iniesta and Andrea Pirlo in the Euros; Andy Murray at Wimbledon; Jess Ennis and Chris Hoy at the Olympics; and Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France. Stellar names who have all written their names in history now.”

But for those of us who want to buy memorabilia, couldn’t we just head to eBay or one of the many other sites that sells these goods?

Edward explains: “It’s all about trust in this field. We say we’re ‘signed by the world’s best’ for a reason; we’re trusted by the players themselves, by the world’s best brands and organisations and ultimately by our customers.

“We’re sold in Harrods, for instance, and we’ve been awarded the first ever UEFA Champions League official signed merchandise licence to go with the first ever FIFA World Cup license we were given in 2010.”

At each signing event, photographs are taken to document the signature and Icons creates a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) for each piece, which includes the date and venue, a picture of the product and the signing image. Each product carries a uniquely coded hologram, with an identical version being added to the COA, which is signed by the company’s managing director.

We asked Edward for his top three picks. He says: “We would have to say a Leo Messi signed Barcelona shirt is still top of most of people’s shopping lists.

“A Steven Gerrard signed, framed Liverpool Istanbul photo is a key part of our Champions League collection we’re launching this autumn and an Eric Cantona signed Manchester United shirt will always outsell any of the modern-day United players.”

Read the full story in the next issue of Sorted magazine.

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