Every die-hard World Cup fan needs a way to support their team that’s as unique as they are and when jerseys, flags, Facebook posts and tweets won’t do, a number of Canadian small businesses can provide an opportunity to take soccer fandom one step further.
Custom Lego figures
Among the many toys in his collective childhood memory, Lego has always stood out for Montreal native Richard Rodgers. So when his parents insisted on throwing out his old toys a few years ago he decided to re-purpose them, building a unique collection of sports players and pop culture figures.
Last year, Mr. Rodgers began selling his mini celebrities on Etsy, an online vintage and handmade marketplace. Among the 98 individual characters featured in his online store include mini casts of popular shows and movies like Breaking Bad and Anchorman, music performers like Jay-Z and Avicii, and even a Lego Rob Ford.
But things really started to take off, explains Mr. Rodgers, when he began selling World Cup themed Lego men for about $30 each this past May.
“Since then there has been significant interest from people all over the world, and my custom mini figures can be found in over 10 countries,” he said.
Mr. Rodgers, who’s currently a marketing manager, hopes to turn his evening and weekend hobby into a full-time career, and the spike in sales leading up to the World Cup has now gotten him one step closer.
Stickers, temporary tattoos, and street decals
StickerYou, a Toronto-based custom sticker, temporary tattoo, and street decal company, has seen a 600 per cent jump in their country flag and World Cup-themed stickers over the last few months.
The company also allows more creative fans to upload their own sticker designs, starting at $10 per page, or temporary tattoo designs starting at $13 per page, to show off the unique relationship they have with their team.
“You can put your name on it, or ’my heart bleeds for England’ or whatever you want,” said Andrew Witkin, the company’s president. “It harkens back to childhood, and it’s got that cool kind of flavour to it.”
StickerYou is also helping Torontonians celebrate the world cup while promoting a new product – street decal stickers – by strategically placing life-sized prints in Toronto communities heavily populated by nationalities participating in the tournament, such as Greek Town or Little Italy. The street-ready stickers feature an outstretched arm clenching a flag, allowing customers to get creative with their placement in public spaces.
“We thought that arm was kind of cool because it allows you to put it underneath a mailbox or a sewer and it looks like there’s someone buried there,” said Mr. Witkin. “We’ve seen the number of pictures people have taken on social media and it’s definitely gotten a lot of interest.”
Custom jewellery, key chains, and bookmarks
For soccer fans avoiding the urge to walk into work decked out in their team colours, there are still some more subtle ways they can wear their enthusiasm on their sleeve, courtesy of Waterdown-based artisan Tammy Bastin.
Her ecommerce store on Etsy, B*jeweled Vintage, features almost 900 individual items made from re-purposed materials ranging from chandelier crystals to old buttons to typewriter keys, and she even takes custom orders.
“I started making cuff links about a year ago, and started with the custom map ones, and they were an absolute hit right away,” said Ms. Bastin, adding that she used high-resolution photocopies from world atlases to create map-themed trinkets and jewellery, most of which sell for between $15 and $25. “I thought this year with the Winter Olympics and the World Cup I would try and incorporating flag cuff links and bookmarks and key chains, and I’m glad I did. It’s been very good.”
Ms. Bastin says she is now sending packages all over the world on a daily basis, primarily to the U.S. and Canada.
“I think my business has done so well because it’s personalized,” she said. “You can go to the gas station and buy a flag for your car anytime, but people like something that’s different and unique.”
For some Canadian soccer fans, however, wearing their team pride on their sleeves isn’t enough; they’d rather design the sleeve themselves.
“We’re definitely selling more team shirts corresponding to the World Cup,” said Maggie Stowe, general manager of Vancouver-based custom t-shirt maker Bang-On. “In Vancouver I walk down Commercial Drive and I see shops everywhere selling pretty standard team shirts, and they’re great and everything, but if you do want a really great product where you can put your favorite player or number on the back come into Bang-On and we can definitely do that for you.”
The company, which was founded in Vancouver in 1999, has since expanded to 15 locations around the world, including 9 in Canada. Customers can either flip through binders containing premade designs or bring a USB with their own unique creation, and watch as it is pressed onto the shirt of their choosing in a matter of minutes.
Prints range from $10 to $20 and blank t-shirts range from $10 to $20. Customers can also bring in their own clothes for a $5 pressing fee.
Ms. Stowe adds that spikes in business typically correspond with major events such as Canada Day, World Pride, and the World Cup.
“I feel like people definitely do love getting their own images made. That’s something you can’t replicate,” she said. “It is nice to have that tangible experience.”