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Los Angeles fans show off their Ruffneck scarves.

Ruffing It
Ruffneck Scarves Making a Name for Itself
June 23, 2010

Is soccer still a niche sport in the U.S.? Not according to Jeff McIntyre, President of Ruffneck Scarves. The official licensee of unbranded scarves for all 16 MLS teams, the company is one of the more intriguing players to enter the sporting goods marketplace in the last few years. McIntyre sees unlimited possibilities for Ruffneck.

“Soccer may have been a specialty sport in the past,” he says, “but it’s not anymore. Just look at ESPN’s ratings for the World Cup. Soccer is no longer a niche sport.”

Indeed, ESPN is breaking all sorts of records with its coverage of the World Cup. Viewership for the first five games of the tournament doubled from 2006. America’s match against Slovenia attracted a new threshold of 5.2 million fans.

Landon Donovan scarves have become big sellers during the World Cup.

Those numbers have translated into big-time sales for Ruffneck. “Right now, anything having to do with the World Cup is huge,” says McIntyre.

Ruffneck got its start in 2007, not long after Italy won the 2006 World Cup. McIntyre, a diehard soccer fan, was in England for a Liverpool match. He watched in awe as 60,000 fans waved their hometown scarves and belted out “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Why not create that same excitement in the U.S., he thought? When McIntyre pitched the idea to his buddy Erin O’Brien, Ruffneck was on its way.

“The scarf is a traditional icon for soccer all around the world,” says McIntyre. “We make everything from larger banner scarves to scarves for kids.”

Indeed, Ruffneck has become the place to go for soccer scarves of all types. In addition to its MLS license, the company also offers product for some 20 NCAA schools. “We’re a bit different,” says McIntyre. “We do our own designs and incorporate chants specific to each team. “

Ruffneck prides itself on its unique designs.

That formula has worked for MLS. According to McIntyre, scarves account for 30% of the league’s merchandise sales. The Philadelphia Union, Los Angeles Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC are Ruffneck’s most consistent sellers.

With the success that Ruffneck has enjoyed with MLS, McIntyre says the company is eager to explore more licensing opportunities. That includes European clubs and even potentially the NHL.

“A scarf is the one piece of merchandise that every soccer fan is looking for,” says McIntyre. “If you’re a sporting goods dealer or a soccer specialty store, then you need Ruffneck on your shelves.”

 

 

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