Burrda Sport, a new brand of team sports apparel supported by Qatar funds, is starting to spread around Europe through a slew of licensing and distribution agreements, as well as sports marketing deals. After a launch in the U.K. last year, it will be introduced shortly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Tunisia, with other countries to come next year.
The brand formally belongs to Pilatus Sports Management, a holding company based in Geneva. However, the brand's management, led by Charles Diab, is based in Doha and it reportedly benefits from the ample funds of important Qatar investors – particularly Qatar Sports Investment (QSI), a company controlled by Sheik Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, heir to the Qatar throne and president of the Qatar national Olympic committee.
Qatar has been investing heavily in sports in the last years, as a means to improve the profile of the country. It obtained the right to host the handball World Cup in 2015 but it made many more headlines in December with its controversial, winning bid to host the football World Cup in 2022.
Burrda's management in Doha said that QSI had helped Pilatus Sports Management establish the brand in the Gulf region and that it continued as a licensing partner for the brand throughout the Middle East.
Burrda, a name which means “coat” in old Arabic, was first launched four years ago in the Gulf states and in Egypt, and it sponsors the Kuwait football team.
So far, Burrda has been supplying apparel for team sports, focusing on football and rugby, but also including ranges for handball, basketball and more. Ahead of its move into Europe, Burrda entirely revamped its brand presentation, with a logo representing a wave and a tagline encouraging consumers to “Challenge Yourself!” An entire advertising package put together by Origin in the U.K. is ready to be deployed for Burrda.
In the meantime, Burrda has signed several prominent sports teams to rapidly build up its visibility in the cluttered European team sports market. It apparently has the resources to hit hard and fast, and wants to directly challenge the leading brands.
Burrda started in Europe through a licensing deal signed last year with Tri Distribution for the U.K., Ireland, South Africa and Australasia. It quickly obtained several sponsorship deals in the U.K., particularly with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Leicester City FC and Watford FC in football. In rugby it teamed up with Llanelli Scarlets and Northampton Saints, which went on to reach the final of the Heineken Cup this year. Furthermore, Burrda became the kit supplier of British Handball.
Tri Distribution previously held a license for Joma, which came to an end last year. It still provides sports kit or second-tier products for other customers such as the Welsh Rugby Union and Tottenham Hotspurs, and will do the same for the Rugby World Cup to be held later this year.
The company sells Burrda football shirts only through the fan stores and online stores of its three partner clubs. On the other hand, some of its rugby products are distributed by other U.K. retailers, such as JD Sports, Kitbag.com and independent stores.
Earlier this year, a licensing agreement for several other European countries was issued to Sports Marketing 2 Business (SM2B), a French company launched by Pierre Arcens, a former Adidas executive, sports marketing expert and consultant for other companies, including Nike. He is targeting sales of about €150 million in the mid-term, with rights covering France, the Benelux countries, Italy, Spain, Portugal and parts of North Africa.
For the time being, SM2B has teamed up with a distributor for the Benelux countries, Dinasport, which otherwise sells several specialist brands such as Xterra wetsuits, Zoggs swimming goggles and Parentini cycling apparel. Burrda's Belgian launch later this month should be strongly supported by the endorsement of the Belgian national football team, which was previously sponsored by Nike. In the Netherlands, Burrda obtained a deal with FC Twente, one of the most successful Dutch football teams.
The brand will also start in France in July through Rugby Diffusion, a distributor specializing in rugby products, and it will work other team sports categories through direct sales, pending the appointment of an agent. Burrda has obtained the endorsement of the Biarritz Olympique and RC Toulonnais football teams, and the OGC Nice football club. In all cases it strives to supply the shirts worn during the games, as well as the rights to merchandise lifestyle products related to the clubs.
For North Africa, the French-based licensee has teamed up with Nord-Sud Diffusion, based in Tunis. Burrda will start in Tunisia itself, backed up by a sponsorship agreement with the country's national football team. Other countries to be targeted by Nord-Sud Diffusion once the political situation becomes more propitious are Algeria and Libya, while a partnership for Morocco has yet to be decided.
Talks are under way for distribution in Spain and Italy. SM2B has supply arrangements in the Far East and in Mediterranean countries, for deliveries in less than four weeks. It intends to expand in some countries next year with apparel ranges for running, training, tennis and golf, and wants to introduce footwear in 2013 at the latest.
Separately, Pilatus Sports Management is negotiating a licensing deal in the United States, where it has already obtained a deal to become the national handball team's apparel supplier.