An estimated record-breaking US$123 million worth of counterfeit sports merchandise representing teams playing in this year’s Super Bowl were seized by U.S. officials in Miami on 3 February. For American football fans, the annual Super Bowl is the most important day of the season, drawing in millions of supporters eager to see who will rise as champion of the National Football League (NFL). The buzz and opportunity for merchandise sales around the game makes it a profitable target for counterfeiters.
Ahead of the game
In the week leading up to the February 3 game, US anti-counterfeiting agents flocked to flea markets, retail outlets and street vendors to confiscate fake jerseys, jewelry, hats, cellphone accessories and thousands of other items. U.S. Customs and Border Protection together with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), announced the confiscation of more than 176,000 items through Operation Team Player.
“Operation Team Player remains one of the most important national initiatives for protecting sports fans from the sale of counterfeit products and counterfeit tickets,” said Dolores DiBella, NFL’s vice president of legal affairs.
Every day, cargo containers containing billions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit goods enter the United States through its land, sea and air ports of entry. Operation Team Player is designed to protect American consumers, legitimate businesses and the overall economy from transnational criminal networks exploiting fans’ enthusiasm for illicit profits.
In 2018, more than 171,926 counterfeit sports- and entertainment-related items worth an estimated US$15.69 million were seized. That same year, U.S. law enforcement officials also charged seven Philadelphia residents who allegedly defrauded sports and music fans by printing, distributing and selling counterfeit tickets to events that included the 2018 Super Bowl game.
Gear up for battle and tackle with a solution
Brand owners from the sports industry are just as conscious of their reputation vis-à-vis those from the high-end luxury goods, as both lose billions of dollars yearly. New technologies are continuously being developed to detect counterfeits, including the use of artificial intelligence in the detection of counterfeit sports shoes. Sports organisations and merchandise companies can further avoid these pitfalls by using anti-counterfeiting solutions and technologies that will ensure they are a step ahead in the counterfeiting game.