Tournament Merchandising (Part 2 - What to buy)

Posted on December 13th, 2011 by Mark "Spike" Liu

This is a guest post by Steve Giguere of Lookfly Ultimate and BlockStack TV
For more td-tuesdays articles:

Part 1 of this article gave some background on creating good tournament merchandise and choosing a merchandising partner. This second part goes into detail about what you need to do if you choose to buy merchandise and sell it yourself.

Playing it Safe

You could buy in a rather small amount of gear and risk selling out rather than having leftovers unsold. There are a lot of good reasons for playing it safe like this. It ensures a good first impression because you'll have a nice shop at the beginning, nobody will really know how much you ordered in, and if it sells out, people might simply think the gear was so amazing they just didn't get there early enough! Additionally you can take orders on the spot for sold out merch and ship them to people after the fact. This takes a bit of organisation but can certainly help boost sales if you feel organised enough to do it. Always document your sales so you can learn for the following year.

The downside is that you don't make as much money from this solution. It's a lot of effort to design the gear and staff the shop for little return. Further, if you don't make much merch, you won't have the fun of seeing it all over the Ultimate scene for the next few years.

Going For it - I want to see my merch all over the world!

As opposed to playing it safe, you might decide to try to sell a lot of merchandise. To get this right you need to not just order the correct number of shirts, hats, shorts, hoodies, etc. You also need to order the correct size distribution. The rest of this article talks about some guidelines.


How many mediums or smalls or XLs. A common mistake is to think everybody wears the same size shirts as you do. If you're 6'2 or 5'4 I can confidently tell you that you're in the extremes of sizing. Here's a hint...the size called 'medium' is called that for a reason.

For men's clothing I usually recommend a ratio of about:

  • 15% small
  • 45% medium
  • 30% large
  • 10% xlarge
For women's clothing:
  • 25% small
  • 50% medium
  • 25% large
This is for your average tournament. In the exceptional case that you're merchandising the World Championships of whatever then you might scale up the larger sizes because if you've ever been to USA Nats you'll notice that for a dude, 6 feet tall is almost below average! You have a taller class of athlete so for the mens gear flip the percentages upside down leaving you with:
  • 10% small
  • 30% medium
  • 45% large
  • 15% xlarge

Let's say you've got about 500 people attending your tournament. How many people will buy a bit of merch? This depends largely on the logo and shirt designs we mentioned earlier and also on the reputation your tournament has. Paganello has a sense of bragging rights associated with it, much like attending WUCC and USA Nats or even Wildwood or Potlatch. The merch you buy and wear to your next practice/tournament says to the world, "that's right I was there...suck it!" without your having to sound like a douche and saying it yourself. That means sales will likely be good and you can bet that almost every 2nd person there will buy something even if it's a commemorative wristband. Those who don't buy anything will be made up for by those who buy a few things. That means you'll probably want to bring in a range of merch items that scale in price from sweatbands and discs at the low end to jackets, warm-up gear and sublimation tops at the high end for those who can afford to get a bit more bling. 

In the end, shoot for a total number of about 250 items for your 500 person super popular mega mojo event. If you don't have the popularity and perhaps this your first year that's a different story.

What items to Buy

If you feel confident in your logo and your friends have all given your designs the thumbs up then start small anyway. With 500 people you can order a good spread of merch. I've broken down the the popular items here so you can decide what's best for your event.


It's difficult to go wrong with these. Many tournaments give a disc to every player as a free gift which, from a player perspective I love! I love it because it means I've got my souvenir already and I don't have to buy any of the other merchandise. A controversial thing to say in an article about merchandising your tournament but the fact remains if you give everyone a free event souvenir then you'll probably sell a reasonably lower amount of stuff in your shop. That's when we come back to your motivation for merchandising. For some TDs this isn't any great worry. For others perhaps it's better to consult the earlier Leaguevine articles about attracting sponsorship (see the original and the follow up) to get your free player gift. 

The great thing about selling discs is that everybody needs discs, they don't come in different sizes (just colours but we all know that white discs are generally preferred) and if there's any left over you can always donate them to development projects or sell them to local teams or other tournaments that aren't so crazy for merch but need some cheap discs. If you don't put a date on them sometimes you can just store them and sell them again next year. Discs are great!


Typically, this is the most common item and is a guaranteed great seller if designed well. The only drawback these days is that sublimated tops are the rage and they tend to cost a considerable amount more than basic single colour tops with a good logo. Additionally it's easier to make a pretty awful looking sub top than it is to make a great one. Some Ultimate companies offer design help in this area but this could cost you. Try to negotiate that into the merchandising agreement.


Sometimes more popular than shirts! More experienced players have so many shirts from playing on so many teams over the years, their closets are overflowing. Most people don't have that many pairs of shorts. Additionally, people can be a bit more flexible over what size they wear with shorts but be quite fussy over shirt size. Shorts are a winner and can be stocked in a variety of colours relatively cheaply.

Hats and Sweatbands

The one size fits all items are great for mass appeal and are generally quite inexpensive to stock in larger quantities. These are great items as last minute things to sell at the check-out.

Warm-up Gear (Hooded Tops and Jackets)

People’s buying tendencies are often are driven by what they feel they need at the moment. If it’s really warm out, you’ll struggle to sell items that when people look at them, the feel uncomfortable or they can’t wear it right away. Warm-up gear works well for a colder climate.

Consider the weather

Great weather means people will be in a great mood and between games will be looking for activities to fill the time. Your merchandising tent could be just the place for a bit of retail therapy or just a place to act as a meeting point. When deciding on items for your tournament, weather is a great decision maker. If you tend to have hot and sunny weather (lucky you) then technical tops (perhaps sleeveless) and hats to protect from the heat are usually a great choice. If you're in the UK and tend to get unpredictable combinations of rain and more rain then you might consider warm-ups like hooded tops for those who arrived unprepared. 

Keep in mind also that if it rains, you might be left holding the merch. Rain sends people seeking shelter between games so it can be a good idea to position yourself and your merchandising tent in place where people meet and seek such shelter so you're not left out in the cold.

I hope this was helpful.  It's impossible to cover all circumstances and situations, but hopefully this was helpful for those who are starting out with creating a brand of tournament merchandise.

Steve Giguere is the founder of UK based Ultimate gear company Lookfly ( and one of the self-proclaimed idiots behind the Ultimate video podcast BlockStack TV (  He's been running his local tournament, The Copa Cabana, in Nottingham, England for 8 years and has worked on the merchandising teams for tournaments of all sizes including major European events like Wonderful Copenhagen, EUCF, Windmill Windup, and Tom's Tourney in Brugge among others over the past 10 years.
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