Sarongs, sunglasses, flipflops: Rio Olympic organizers hope you'll wear your souvenirs
The mascots of Rio 2016 Olympic, left, and Paralympic Games pose for a photo at the Leme Fort, with Copabana beach, left, in the background, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. (AP / Alex Ferro)
RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - Sarongs, sunglasses, flipflops and dresses -- souvenirs for the Rio Olympics are designed to be worn long after South America has hosted its first Olympiad.
Organizers stressed this week they are hoping related Games-merchandise from the August 2016 extravaganza -- which they hope will top the $420-million mark (one billion real) -- will see fans make "lifestyle" purchases to preserve the memory of "being there."
"We feel people who come to Rio want to take back the essence of Rio," Rio 2016 Licensing Director Sylmara Multini told AFP in Rio, citing various articles of "lifestyle apparel" including flipflops, a quintessential footwear item in the city, where sartorial tastes of the majority tend sharply to the informal.
Multini, who brings to the table experience of working with large U.S. entertainment corporations, said the approach would be different both from the World Cup -- which had a more masculine and adult demographic -- as well as the London Games.
For traditional mementos such as plush toys and pins -- primarily made in low-cost Asian countries -- organizers are primarily targeting children between the ages of four and eight, who they estimate will account for a 40 per cent share of all merchandising.
But Multini said the idea was also to emphasize Brazilian 'Olympic' fashion, that is, "something that looks like Rio".
In all, 90 to 95 per cent of merchandise is being targeted at the Brazilian market with licensing contributing aroung $70 million.
That compares poorly with more than double that sum for Beijing in 2008 and is just over half the $130 million for the London Games in 2012.
But a different market means a different ball game in 2016, says Multini.
"The focus is on the host country as historically the revenue does come from locals," she explained.
Bolstering the local approach, she added that of 50 licensing deals either closed or in progress to date, out of 65 targeted in all, 37 are with 100 percent Brazilian companies, while a further seven will source their products both inside and outside Brazil, "so there will be a big number of Brazilian products."
A total of 12,000 different Games-related lines will be available, more than at previous Olympics and organizers say some 15 percent of the money from sales will contribute to an operational Games budget of seven billion reais ($2.7 billion).
A total of 150 temporary official stores at strategic points such as airports, shopping centers and hotels will be progressively rolled out ahead of the event and products will also be on sale at some 6,000 other sales points.
Merchandise which has already caught the fans' imagination are the official Olympic and Paralympic mascots, which were unveiled last month and which are to receive their names in the coming days after a public vote.
Some 2,000 mascots at the only store open to date at the organizers' central Rio headquarters were snapped up within two days, organizers said Thursday.
Multini said the approach would be different from London to refine strategy in a different market where retailers were initially perceived as more reticent whereas "with the London retailers we feel they really got it" from the outset.
Some 80 per cent of Olympic merchandise retailers will be independent with the remainder Rio 2016 branded stores.
"We want to open the door for our licensees. The secret is in the distribution and getting the excitement" building up as the event nears, said Multini.
She noted that some popular items in Rio which might appear typically "Carioca" -- that is, from Rio -- were in fact from low-cost Asia, such as wrap-around sarongs from Bali.
But she said if Brazil could not always compete on cost its self-styled "Marvelous City" did have plenty of advantages up its sleeve.
"Rio is a magical place and I think people will flock here. It's almost like we don't need to advertise!"