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Destiny of FIFA World Cup, Team Brazil and Manchester United Turns on Walmart

Walmart (WMT) has cornered the market on soccer's World Cup.

The retailer has become the exclusive discount store retailer for FIFA World Cup merchandise leading up to the event slated for South Africa in this summer.

That's a huge deal. Walmart has hundreds of stores in many of the most soccer crazed countries on the planet, including Brazil, England and Argentina. It's planning to open FIFA boutiques in stores around the world, and it will ensure the merchandise it offers is affordable to a wide range of customers by providing a specific line of low-cost products.

The deal could be a boon for international soccer in the United States. During the last World Cup, many Americans followed the international tournament, and it became a common site to see people on American streets sporting national team jerseys, Brazil's yellow and Italy's blue being among the most popular, and even those of well known soccer clubs, such as Manchester United.

For the upcoming World Cup, of course, the media carrying the games will promote them aggressively. If Walmart gets involved as well, soccer and soccer merchandise could get an even bigger World Cup boost in the United States this time around. Given the Fox Soccer Channel and a large contingent of U.S. sports lovers following the English premier league on cable television, the stage already has been set for a big show, particularly with the U.S. team playing England in the World Cup's first round.

But that isn't all. A new Clint Eastwood/Morgan Freedman/Matt Damon rugby epic -- set in South Africa -- is breaking and more pay-for channels carrying international sports are emerging. The momentum suggests international athletics could make a significant impact on retailing over the next few years. And that doesn't even count the effect of the upcoming Olympics, which will be held in North America and, so, close enough to the U.S. to generate a little extra enthusiasm in the States.

Jami Lamontagne, a Walmart spokesperson, said the company is collaborating with FIFA's exclusive worldwide master licensee, Global Brands Group, to establish 2010 FIFA World Cup Official Event Stores as operations in Walmart-owned retail outlets in its various markets globally. She noted:

Walmart is the only discount retailer in the markets where we operate to have official FIFA event branded shops inside select stores that will offer exclusive FIFA World Cup official licensed products. We want to help our customers celebrate their passion for the FIFA World Cup by ensuring that we have the products they are looking for at a great value, offering selective exclusive 2010 FIFA World Cup licensed merchandise including 12 products under $10. As a global company, we want to be a part of bringing the world together, and no other event ties the world together like the World Cup.
A big boost by Walmart not only has the potential for popularizing the games but, by generating interest in the related gear, providing a boost for other retailers who sell licensed goods from the individual national teams involved in the tournament, such as Brazil, and from clubs that are well known in the U.S., Manchester United conspicuous among them. Walmart's heavy promotion of NASCAR merchandise certainly didn't hurt the racing circuit in its rise to prominence through the '90s, and a big effort in the United States won't hurt FIFA and soccer generally.

At present, the Walmart U.S. division has not set its final World Cup strategy, Lamontagne said, "but will share more details in the coming months."

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