Football pitch puts US market in sight
THE golf course has long been known as a place to do business, but striking a deal on the football pitch is, understandably, less common.
But for one innovative Hull company, a kickabout at the Emirates Stadium has paved the way for expansion into the US market.
Fan Frames is the official supplier of club-branded glasses and sunglasses for most of football's top Premier League teams, including Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United.
The company, which is based at Hull University Business School, is in talks with several UK optical chains interested in stocking its glasses and is signing up a network of independent opticians across the country.
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Now, Fan Frames has signed an exclusive deal to sell sunglasses through US-based football equipment and merchandise retailer Sports Endeavors.
Paul Gibson, director of Fan Frames, teamed up with the American retailer after he played five-a-side against one of its directors at an Arsenal licensee day.
He said the deal gave Fan Frames "valuable exposure to the massive American market".
He said: "There are 19 million active soccer players in America. For every registered player, there are five or six supporters.
"We have already had fans getting in touch asking if we do LA Galaxy glasses.
"We could end up supplying glasses for American soccer clubs, which would be phenomenal.
"We've also had US-based fans asking if we can send over spectacle frames as well sunglasses, so in time we could develop the optical side over there as well."
After selling half of its original shipment from the Hull-based company, Sports Endeavors has now placed a second order for Arsenal and Chelsea sunglasses.
Laura England, licensed product buyer for the US sports retailer, said: "We've sold half of our first shipment and have since reordered.
"I think next summer will be a great opportunity."
Mr Gibson said the company is now looking to develop the concept globally and is planning to target the Indian market.
He said: "We ran a Facebook competition and the traffic from India was bigger than the traffic we were getting from the UK.
"There are 600 million middle-class people in India at the moment and there is a massive Manchester United following.
"We are talking with a distributor and they have asked for samples of spectacles and sunglasses."
With Premiership football televised in more than 200 countries and followed by more than one billion fans worldwide, Mr Gibson said he believed Fan Frames was on the verge of tapping into a world of new opportunities.
He said: "Research shows 60 per cent of viewers wear glasses, so it's a huge market to go at.
"Manchester United are estimated to have more than 660 million fans worldwide."