TD Tools: Tournament Merchandising (Part 1)

by | December 9, 2011, 4:56pm 0

This article is part of Leaguevine’s “TD Tuesdays” series and are being re-posted on Skyd following release on Leaguevine.

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Creating an appealing and perhaps more importantly, sellable range of merchandise to support your already exciting tournament is tricky business indeed.You might think the most important thing is the logo, or maybe choosing a good supplier with the latest gear, or perhaps all this thinking has already got you tuning out and you prefer the more holistic Kevin Costner approach of “If you merch it, they will come”. The truth is, there’s no tried and testing formula for success but I’ve put together some ideas to help you along.

If you want a successful merchandising effort you need to define what the goals of your merchandising effort are first. Some events just want to look cool by offering a bad-ass range of gear and the TD’s real payback is seeing that gear for the next 365 days at other events and knowing his/her tournament effort was a success. Other events are offering the merch as a service to players in expectation that they will want a little bit of history as a souvenir of their experiences (on top of the 1530 Facebook photos documenting each embarrassing second at the after-party party). Finally, some tournaments are actually using the merchandising as an opportunity to make a bit of extra coin for their efforts. It’s a business opportunity.

The truth is, there’s an aspect of all 3 of these motives for any merchandising effort. Each TD knows that one of these is often the driving force behind the effort and regardless of which one it is, I think all will agree that nobody wants to lose money in the process.

How to Have Great Tournament Merchandise

(aka… how to not lose money on selling merch)

Have a great tournament logo

Get somebody you know with some talent to give your event some momentum. I don’t mean your tournament name in a bizarre font you downloaded from (an awesome font website). I mean an actual logo. Check out an event like Paganello in Rimini Italy and their straightforward fish logo. It just so happens that a Paganello is a type of fish as well. This logo when slightly stylized each year looks great on everything from a burlap sack to a hot air balloon. You could whack that logo on a giant umbrella, call it a trophy and people would eat it up. Got the idea? Did you take that logo design seriously? If so, push the button, but ask your friends first because a good friend will tell you when your logo sucks.

Get a good merch partner

There’s plenty out there. Ultimate companies have been multiplying lately and it seems no matter where you are, you can find one near you. My opinion is that if the company is nearby, there’s one less risk for you as the TD. Nothing sells worse than a ton of sweet merch that didn’t show up because of a customs issue or shipping delay.

Different companies offer different services. Some might offer a discount for you to buy your merch so you can sell it and make a good bit of a profit. Some will bring their own shop to your event and provide you with tournament perks like banners and perhaps even a player gift in order to sell your branded gear for you. Quite often they’ll offer you a percentage of sales for the privilege of coming. This is great for you as it’s no risk, little hassle and you’ll make a bit on top! Quite often you won’t make as much money as if you bought in the merch yourself. However, you also don’t have any of the financial risk associated with making 100 hooded tops that might not sell and you don’t have to deal with any left-overs. To draw this kind of merchandiser attention you typically need to be a rather large and note-worthy event (USA this…Worlds Championships of that…Paganello etc).

Some companies offer design help if your logo does happen to suck a bit and some companies are better for price. It all depends on your needs. Slightly pricier merch from a company that will hold your hand and give you design support to make some appealing and attractive memorabilia is worth far more than a company that sells you cheap gear with your sketchy logo that might end up not selling. Ultimate companies have typically made merch for far more events than you so it’s almost always worth asking their advice.

The summary here is to start with local companies and at places with good service and work outwards from there until you find a company you like. Try to get an Ultimate company to back you and take on the risk of making it and selling it in exchange for benefits of some kind. If that doesn’t work out, use the Ultimate companies for advice on design and quantities to order so you don’t end up out of pocket. Once you’ve got something that works one year, stick with it.

Present it well

All the good will, amazing logos, great designs and perfect weather won’t help you if your shop looks terrible. Borrow some clothing rails from friends, get some used hangers from the local shopping centre clothing outlet, bring a few tables from home and make the shop as easy and accessible as possible. Think about the things you hate about shops in the local mall like shop staff standing at the entrance waiting for you to enter, difficulty finding your size, having to ask staff for help, or not being able to find any price tags. Try not to reproduce those things and you’ll be rolling out the red carpet.

Buy the right stuff

There are a lot of things you must consider before making a purchase, so next week’s part 2 of this article will focus on what items you should buy, why those are the best choices, and how much you should order.

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