World Cup fever grips Brunei

National 4 minutes, 24 seconds


BUSINESSES are cashing in on Bruneians’ love for football, offering promotions and selling all things related to the FIFA World Cup.

Any merchandise related to the World Cup becomes a trend - jerseys, boots, footballs, games and even stickers.

Capitalising on the once-in-four-year event, Hua Ho Department Store held a Football Fiesta at its Manggis branch to bring together families and friends through activities from a foosball challenge to the Fifa 14 video game competition.

Manager of Hua Ho Manggis Branch Lau Soon Tiong said it was the first time they organised a World Cup event.

“We usually don’t have much football merchandise, so we wanted to know how the World Cup would benefit us. That’s why with the football fiesta, we ordered more football merchandise such as authentic jerseys, balls and boots,” he said.

Lau expressed his surprise at how they have not prioritised football merchandise for a country that consists of many football fans. Their experiment worked as the merchandises have been selling well.

“There were even these World Cup fan groups that came here just for the merchandise. Most of our merchandises are out of stock right now,” he added.

The activities gather the customers, while the seller reaps the profits from merchandise sales. However, circumstances do change and change affects sales.

Lau explained that one of their top-selling merchandise was Spain’s jersey until they were knocked out less than a week after the tournament kicked off. Sales stopped with four Spain jerseys left in stock.

He added: “Germany is the one most people buy, we only have three home jerseys left, and the away jerseys are all sold out.”

With the World Cup having started in the middle of the month and Hari Raya Aidil Fitri looming, sales would dip but the World Cup has prevented people from saving up as much as they would like, the manager said.

“We will have more and more football merchandise in the coming months because the feedback from the football fiesta has been amazing.”

The Football Fiesta also saw the gathering of Panini World Cup sticker fans.

Some call it an obsession, some call it a hobby, while others think of it as a way to get into the World Cup fever before the squads have been announced.

Every World Cup since ‘Mexico 70’, Panini releases a sticker album where customers acquire stickers of footballers to complete their albums.

To complete the albums, collectors would meet to swap stickers with ‘strangers’ to avoid buying more sticker packets and accumulate duplicate stickers.

The Guardian earlier this month reported that sales of the Panini stickers are up this World Cup in nearly all the 100 countries in which the stickers are sold.

It also reported that Panini is on target for a record-breaking World Cup as “Twitter and Facebook become a virtual swap shop where no one is excluded for looking too old and a bit dodgy”.

Brunei has its own official Panini Facebook page that promotes and organises events for the Panini community in the sultanate.

The Facebook page is managed by Sim Yang, project manager of Adison Marketing Services, which is the marketing agency for the distributor of the Panini World Cup albums in Brunei.

Since 2006, they had been promoting the Panini World Cup albums through the newspaper, TV and now online media.

“What we tried to achieve through Facebook was to reach out to the community and those who you could describe are hardcore fans and they’ve helped to promote the Panini sticker albums. What’s really special is that we found this group of fanatics and it wouldn’t have been the same without them,” said Sim.

Retail shops like Raimar and Sifana selling more than half of their original stock just days after its release in Brunei.

“All the stock the distributor had is sold out, you can still buy the stickers in store but once it runs out, that’s it,” he added.

It is not known how many sticker packets the Brunei distributor ordered.

The marketing agency itself has benefitted from an increase of clients due to the World Cup matches playing in the late hours.

“One of the benefits of the World Cup is that the games are playing late at night, so with people staying up late to watch the World Cup, our clients have felt more confident that their advertisements are being watched even in the late hours.”

With people watching games during the wee hours of the morning, restaurants have also hopped on the bandwagon by extending their opening hours.

Supervisor of all TK Tea House branches, Nur Hasanah, said the restaurants can be filled to capacity up until 5am, depending on the match.

The two biggest branches of TK are the ones in Kiarong and Gadong, with both broadcasting the game on giant projectors.

“During normal days, only weekends there would be a lot of people while on weekdays there wouldn’t be that many people. But even weekdays during the World Cup, it can get full depending on the game,” he said.

He said TK Kiarong can hold up to nearly 500 people while TK Gadong can go up to around 200. “When it gets packed, our sales could rise to around 50 per cent or more.”

The Brunei Times