Sports merchandise is big business. Every major league in every country has licensed distributors. Those distributors run sports merchandise affiliate programs paying 3% to 15% in commissions, sometimes higher when you factor in performance bonuses. (happens frequently.)
There’s no disputing the statistics.
The top 10 most valuable teams in sports are valued in the BILLIONS. Only around half their revenue comes from ticket sales and broadcasting revenue.
A significant chunk of their valuation is from their fanbase buying branded merchandise.
From coffee mugs and glassware, to team branded keychains, jerseys, and branded apparel to teeny-size sportswear in Daddio’s team’s color to fit babies. Not to miss a monetizing opportunity, there’s even sports merchandise for the pet niche. No Joke!
That means you can even includes these products below in your affiliate promotions, even if your niche-focus isn’t specifically about sports.
Choosing You Niche In Sports Merchandise
In all sports, there are two types of fans. Sports fans and partisan fans.
A sports fan has:
- A love for the sport
- The community
- The atmosphere,
- A thrill for the competitiveness of the sport
That can be basketball, hockey, Motorsports, BMX track racing, F1 or any number (or a combination) of other sports.
Fans don’t care so much for the players, but they give a hoot about watching a good game.
The partisan sports fans though – this is a different beast.
These are true fans devoted to one team only and if gawd-forbid their team gets knocked out of a tournament early, they will not take the moral high ground giving praise where praise is due.
Whether their team plays bad or totally smashes it, these fans are always going to be loyal to their team colors.
One thing’s for sure… Partisan fans are loyal ‘til the end!
For you, that means you can clean up selling sports merchandise to partisan fans. Some things you’ll need to know:
- Your audience’s colors
- The sport they’re into
- Their team
- The players they see as iconic
With the data insights, you’ll be able to tailor promotions around events, and for a true fan, it seems like those events are happening every day. Even holidays like Christmas or Prime Day could be leveraged to send out a couple emails with affiliate links.
Imagine being able to promote every day without burning your list with irrelevant offers or products.
The sports merchandise affiliate programs listed below are geared towards team fans.
- …Purists and partisan
- All have a host of merchandise to choose from,
- Inventory in the 100,000+ range
- Data feeds provided to give real-time pricing updates direct to your website
- With regular promotions to maximize revenue around every sporting event.
12 Sports Merchandise Affiliate Programs
- Dicks Sporting Goods
- Prep Sportswear
- Online Sports
- Subside Sports
- Doggie Nation
- Cricket World Moorabbin (Australian Market – why is explained)
Dicks Sporting Goods
The Dicks website is like a Walmart for sporting goods. Every sport, every league, all the gear, every season… and a product data feed feeding real-time data directly to your site.
Commission rates start at 3% and they’re partnered with Impact Radius to manage the affiliate program. That’s where you’ll get your promotional banners, links, and be able to track your campaign progress.
Dicks won’t be dicks with your email. They’ll keep you updated every week with the latest promotions they have, coupons and any tools and creatives you need to monetize your website and audience.
Best advice: Don’t just sign up with Impact Radius. Put an email into DSGAffiliate[@]dcsg.com and introduce yourself explaining what your site is about and what your audience is likely to be buying.
Impact Radius is only the technology partners. Dicks have their own in-house affiliate team there to support you. Don’t go it alone when you don’t have to.
Prep sportswear are part of Sportswear Inc. – an e-commerce tech company, primarily focused on digital marketing, but with imprint expertise and now official licensing rights for as many as 800,000 colleges with jerseys, merchandise, and apparel.
The affiliate program is run on the ShareASale network, paying 12% commissions using 7-day cookies.
There’s also performance related bonuses that could boost your earnings more. With over 800,000 schools and teams, there’s no shortage of sports apparel to promote.
In addition, there’s another option to narrow your niche marketing even more with custom imprinting. They have an imprint service where they’ll create team jerseys using the creatives provided.
If you have the knack to provide design services to local sports clubs, recreation groups or charitable organizations, you could be selling your design services for an upfront payment and have your clients order through your referral links to increase back-end profits
… or give your clients a discount – less than what you’re making so you’re still making some extra dosh.
Adidas is a gigantic brand with their toes in a range of sports categories, many as official sponsors.
Within their sports category on their website, they list the following:
Pay attention to those because you’re hardly going to get organic traffic from the brand name Adidas. And you cannot use it in PPC campaigns.
Do Not Try!
Instead, you can narrow your focus using the categories they tell you on their site that they have the gear for.
You could go into any of the above sports niches and find gear and merchandise for the leagues within those to monetize with Adidas branded products.
The audience demographic they need your help reaching are guys and girls aged 18 to 24. A good combination here would be Prep Sportswear with the college audience for jerseys and Adidas for training gear.
If you have an engaged audience that’s outside their preferred age range, don’t discount them. A sale is a sale.
The Adidas affiliate program is run through Impact Radius, paying up to 7% commission. As an affiliate partner, you’ll get access to a data feed of 3,500 products.
Tailor the feed to match what your audience would be interested in.
Now, listen up…
Pay attention to the newsletter they send to affiliates, especially the fine print. Upcoming new releases that are driven by hype campaigns can be excluded from earning commissions. These big brands can pump millions into new product launches.
If they aren’t paying commissions on new releases, there’s still an opportunity to increase your traffic by getting an early scoop on what’s about to be hot, blog about it and try to capture emails.
Just don’t try launch-jacking tactics. That will get your account suspended. As mentioned, a lot of money is plowed into launch campaigns.
US Affiliates can earn through the Nike Affiliate Program with Sovrn Commerce
UK affiliates can join the Nike Affiliate Program on the AWIN network here
The Nike affiliate program can be a good earner as it paid up to 11% commission. However, they aren’t taking on new affiliates directly for US traffic, but they are honoring existing partner relationships.
Viglink is pre-approved. (more to come on this in a sec)
If you aren’t familiar with Nike and Adidas, they’ve been in battle for market share for years. Both are dominant brands around the globe with a presence in 160 countries.
- Nike’s market share is primarily in North America.
- Adidas has the most market share in Europe.
For Nike to maintain their billion-dollar annual revenue advantage over Adidas, they tend to exert control over their traffic sources, preferring EU affiliates.
That said, the Nike store itself is what every pre-approved affiliate is promoting. The smarter way to piggyback on the Nike Brand is to understand their markets.
They have a range of brands under the Nike corporate tag.
- Nike Golf
- Cole Haan
Every brand identity has a different audience demographic. It’s how big brands dominate the market. It happens in every industry from fashion to electrical appliances. Nike’s no different.
- Nike has a reputation for running shoes.
- Converse is the brand for skaters.
- Hurley is the brand for surfers (and water sports)
- And of course, Nike Golf is all things Golf.
If you have primarily US traffic to monetize, you can work with Viglink (now Sovrn // Commerce) using their affiliate links, for which they’ll take a commission from your earnings.
For those with UK traffic, AWIN shows the primary region for the Nike Affiliate Program being the UK. You can learn more here.
Be sure to read the guidelines and keep an eye on the countries they’ll pay commission on.
And, like Adidas, don’t hijack their trending hashtags on social media during a new product launch. They don’t like it and will terminate your account for messing with their launch plans.
Also: When you use Sovrn // Commerce on your website, it applies site-wide to all your affiliate links.
If you don’t want Viglinks running on your site, the alternative is to use the first sporting site listed – the Dicks Sporting Goods affiliate program to promote Nike branded merchandise.
Set up an email alert in case they do re-open the Nike Affiliate Program for different countries.
To make the most from the trust and familiarity of the Nike brand, target the demographics suited to each of their brands instead of trying to promote only the Nike store.
Conversions are always higher when you promote specialist stores. Like a Hurley category on an online sports store for surfers in Australia… or traveling to somewhere coastal on a water sports vacation.
Sign up to Austad Golf Affiliate Program (Avantlink)
For anyone running a golfing website, partner with Austad. They stock everything a golfer could ever be inclined to buy.
People can shop by category, by brand, for golf gifts by budget and they’ll even custom fit clubs with a money-back 20-day guarantee (less 20% restocking fee) and a triple guarantee on everything else that’s not custom fitted.
Austad pays 7.5% rising to 9% on volume sales over $5,000, have 60-day cookies, their own dedicated management for affiliate support, a data feed available and a whole range of creatives to put to work as promotional tools to get your campaigns working.
What’s not to love about all that?
On occasion, there are exclusive promotions for affiliates and the business is family run – not a corporate with a main interest in pleasing shareholders.
So, if golfing’s what your site’s about – reach out to Austad. The Director of E-commerce is Sara Rubin Austad. The clue’s in the name. Austad.
It’s a family business and you can bet she cares a lot about who is approved. Do your due diligence before reaching out.
You’ll find out she’s a family gal, two kids, a hubby and sadly, lost the family dog last year due to a neurological condition.
Sara’s background is in internet marketing, moving the needle on web traffic for Summitsoft and Hayneedle, then shifted focus to Austad Golf in 2014 in her current position describing the role as:
“growing the web business for the best golf retailer in the world – Austad’s Golf.”
The point of the above is that you do not want to screw around with family businesses. This is part of her kid’s heritage – one day. Focus on helping drive quality referrals to grow the business using your marketing know-how with another savvy internet marketer.
When you’re ready, introduce yourself with a professional business email to sara[@]austadgolf.com.
Assume you’re going to be screened when you apply through Avantlink.
Give a customary intro and a heads up with more details on how you plan to help grow Austad’s web presence and sales.
WWE Affiliate Program
Every fan of wrestling is familiar with the WWE franchise. They’ll have no qualms shopping here for wrestling merchandise and for those, there is no shortage.
WWE fans are crazy for merchandise. And nostalgic too.
In fact, one of the best things the WWE franchise did was to put every PPV ever aired online for fans to buy an all-access pass and relive the events anytime.
Today’s matches, even with the biggest names, pale in comparison to the blood and gore of yesteryear’s matches.
For keywords, you’ve plenty.
KW phrases can use WWE superstars like The Rock, John Cena, the Undertaker and the legendaries of Wrestling – Ric Flair, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart, Shawn Michaels, and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin – each name a franchise in their own rights.
Niche websites for wrestling fans can be marketed by names, match stats, what they’re up to now, career highlights, and of course, replica titles that tie in with stories published about historic all-out battles.
The WWE network is managed by Commission Junction, paying 5% on all WWE shop purchases. You can also promote the WWE network passes and earn $1 per subscription.
Onlinesports.com pay a handsome 10% to 14% commission across a product range in excess of 100,000 products. Suffice to say, they have a data feed you can use to bring those products onto your site.
They have partnered with GoldenCan.com for the data feed, but (and thankfully) they’re covering the cost of that.
This, right away, saves the premium price tag of importing thousands of products to your site using either GoldenCan that’d take what would be your commission on every 4th sale.
…or other providers like DataFeedr.com that bring a monthly subscription for this number of product imports.
The Online Sports affiliate program is on two platforms – Commission Junction and ShareaSale.com. Affiliates can sign up with whichever one they prefer.
If you do sales on one platform more than the other, it makes sense to keep it under one roof for simpler managing of multiple programs and payments. Whichever platform you choose, the terms are the same.
Your links are cookied for 60-days paying commission on all products starting at 10%. The percentage increases to 14% based on volume sales.
The average order value here is $125. Nothing to sneeze at.
The MLS store is home to officially licensed merchandise for Major League Soccer, covering every club in every city.
The MLS store is part of Fanatics.com. A site every sport related site will be promoting.
The opportunity for affiliate commissions in soccer is relentless with this program when you consider the player names, games, leagues, and keyword terms you could be optimizing for.
As mentioned earlier about going local with a site using a state name, you could go with something broad like The Soccer Box [.com] and optimize your categories by state soccer teams with sub-categories optimized for player names within those teams.
The MLS Store is managed using the ShareASale network, has 7-day cookies paying 5% commission on all their products and a data feed with an inventory of 4,000 products.
The MLS Store is your source for US and Canadian soccer apparel.
Subside Sports is even bigger, covering international soccer apparel with club jerseys, apparel, branded merchandise for the majority of European Soccer teams, nostalgic soccer trading cards and an entire category devoted to player shirts.
You can sign up to partner directly through the Subside Sports affiliate program, or use ClixGalore.com. When you partner directly, there’s an additional 5% when a referral buys any of their Retake merchandise.
Standard commissions are 10% on all other products.
To get the 15% commission on Retake products, work with them directly.
Whether your site focuses on major league sports, little league or collegiate merchandise, Doggie Nation covers the lot with sports merchandise for dogs.
Who’d have thought of it?
Just as fans with newborns will buy their bundle of joy the latest kit, dog owners feel the same and will spend money to dress their dogs in their team colors.
Not always overdoing it, mind you. Some are jerseys, but others are straightforward branded dog collars, leads, bowls, treats, and even car seat covers.
Then, there’s the dog bandanas that are sure to go down a treat on big Derby days.
As an affiliate of Doggie Nation, they pay a standard 8% base commission, increasing to 10% if you’re doing high volume sales.
Cookies last for 60-days and the program is managed by the AvantLink network.
If the commissions aren’t appealing enough to become a Doggie Nation affiliate, they’ve set their data feeds up with a regularly updated SKU count, which keeps your website updated with stock inventory.
That’s going to show on your website as “only 2 left in stock” or similar notices.
On popular sellers, the updated SKU can increase your CTR so that’s a handy feature to have.
Cricket World Moorabbin
The cricket niche is a tricky one because it’s the second largest sport in the world with an estimated 2.5 billion fans. Problem is – 90% of those are in India.
A problem for cricket sports affiliates is geography. Learn from Adidas and Nike. Both tried to get in and ride it out in India by sponsoring cricket bats. Then pulling out because they can’t compete on price.
Local producers will always undercut brand prices.
The India market is huge, but not for sales, unless you’re promoting Amazon.in or probably cricket gear on AlieExpress.com.
To make money in the most popular destinations for cricket fans, which are in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, the top four countries would be better monetized by display advertising as the audience is huge.
When folks like Rupert Murdoch are beating out Facebook in bidding wars for media rights at a cost of $2.6 Billion, it shows there are brands going to advertise to get in front of that audience.
That’s only increasing exposure. Not directly impacting sales. For affiliates, sales are where it matters.
Quality cricket bats are made of English Willow. Something in rare supply overseas. One of the high-quality producers of English Willow cricket bats is the World Cricket Store. The affiliate program is managed on ClixGalore.co..uk – more info here.
They’ll pay 8% on all their products, with the exception of BOLA branded products. These are automated bowling machines selling for higher prices. If you’re going to include bowling machines, there are several on Amazon.com selling from $200 to $850.
Unless you’re promoting to a UK audience, you’ll find it difficult to get sales with the World Cricket Store as the international shipping rates are sky high.
Australia ranks 5th in the world for cricket popularity.
CricketWorldMoorabbin.com is an Australian firm, run by a level 3 performance coach and a former cricket player that stocks and ships a wide range of cricket supplies.
There’s an affiliate program paying from 4% to 10%, depending on sales volumes.
For affiliates in the cricket space, Australia will be easier sales through Cricket World Moorabbin, and in the UK, there’s the World Cricket Store.
Just don’t expect many referrals to be pleased paying the high shipping rates for overseas. You could make decent money with them promoting English Willow bats and signed merchandise to the right audience.
Become an Eastbay Affiliate here (the US only)
Eastbay is a source for athletes’ apparel and their target audience is high schools and college sports selling training gear, kits, and footwear.
But, buried in their sports section, there are 16 subcategories covering everything teens need for practice training for wrestling, softball, skateboarding, volleyball, lacrosse and a whole bunch more.
As an affiliate of Eastbay, you’ll earn a flat 8% commission on all products and your links have a 7-day cookie period.
That said, if you’re inexperienced, approach with caution as you do not want to fall foul of the COPPA regulations. COPPA is the “Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act”
As one lawyer put it
“If Amazon thinks there’s a legal risk, chances are you don’t want to violate that law either.”
Eastbay is part of Foot Locker, which used to describe itself as being “dedicated to 7-24-year-old athletes.” That’s no longer there but that is the target audience.
As an affiliate (of any program) when you’re actively promoting high school and junior leagues, you need to be careful how you run your campaigns, such as collecting data for email marketing.
Have disclaimers in place to make it clear you’re an affiliate for various brands and the site is not intended to be used by those under 18.
Regardless of your experience, there are sports merchandise affiliate programs available to get you started promoting above-board products to adults with the money to spend.
For the lower competition little league sports, high school and collegiate merchandise where there’s potential for under 18s to get on your mailing list or clicking your affiliate links, you’d be best with some advanced affiliate training under your belt.