With much of live sport still on hold, fans around the world are filling the void by re-playing classic bouts and battles, which can fuel the desire to own a slice of authentic sporting history. One company giving the fans what they want is The Bootroom Collection. As the Middle East’s first fully customisable sporting memorabilia platform, no one could be more passionate about the subject than footie fanatic and founder Craig McKelvie.
Why do people love collecting sporting memorabilia and how has this transformed into an industry in its own right?
If you’re a sports fan, there’s no greater thrill than watching that game-winning moment that propels your favourite team into the winners’ bracket. Unless of course, you are the owner of the game-winning ball or jersey autographed by the player who scored the winning goal or points! Sports memorabilia is a relatively new industry, with the first collectables coming in the early 20th century. Unsurprisingly, enormous global marketing campaigns are also to credit for this industry growth. Global sporting entities such as the English Premier League (EPL) drive forward the industry each year via their associations with major sporting franchises and famous faces.
Describe the luxury sporting memorabilia market in the Middle East and how does it differ from other markets?
Thriving economies like the Middle East are contributing enormously to the development of the industry, as new customers spend significant sums on sporting merchandise. For example, 2019 saw the launch of the first Official Liverpool FC store in Dubai, a notable moment not just for the region but the industry as a whole.
Your business model is based on a ‘from the fans, to the fans’ set up. How does this work?
As a self-proclaimed sports fanatic with a passion for football, I discovered a gap in the market for sports memorabilia and decided to take the leap of faith and launch The BootRoom Collection. I took my passion for football and my passion for luxury goods, and combined them to create a product that was uniquely special for sports fans. We work with trusted partners to provide luxury quality in terms of framing and the technique used in packaging.
The recent global health pandemic has had a huge impact on the sporting world as a whole. What lessons can be garnered from this?
The sporting world has essentially shut down in terms of live sporting events and tournaments. Saying this, a few have adapted in order to continue to connect with fans in a new way through virtual opportunities. As for sports retail, online workouts have become hugely popular as well as we have seen a massive rise in online shopping. If we can take anything from the pandemic, it is how important the internet is for all industries and essential for retail brands to survive.
How has the pandemic affected the way you do business in your field?
The BootRoom Collection has been reviewing options to increase its presence and availability online. As we work with iconic global brands, we choose our partners very carefully and therefore, will soon be selling merchandise via Amazon.ae and noon.com, both being a natural choice for us as they are leaders in e-commerce. We are accelerating our plans to go online to ensure we can continue to connect to local sports fans and offer the merchandise they want.
What’s your favourite sporting quote of all time?
Bill Shankly: “If Everton were playing at the bottom of my garden, I would draw the curtains.”
What’s the Holy Grail of sports collectables in your opinion?
Within this sector, the legends who are no longer with us command a very high price for a signed piece of their history. Match worn items by the likes of Messi 0r Ronaldo command an equally high price as they are one-offs and can’t be replicated. We have sold a Muhammad Ali glove and a signed image of him ‘Knocking Out The Beatles’. These pieces are so rare now and only come around once every so often, so it’s great to be able to see these as a part of The BootRoom Collection. A piece of Muhammad Ali signed memorabilia will only grow in value (if it’s looked after) as he was the first ‘GOAT’ and one of the biggest names in the sports industry to this day.
What would be the all-time top 3 memorabilia items on your personal collection wishlist?
• Ayrton Senna F1 Helmet (worn and signed)
• Muhammad Ali Glove (worn and signed)
• Steven Gerrard 2005 Champions League match shirt (worn)
What sets the pros from the amateurs apart in the luxury collectables arena?
Just like any other collectables industry, sports memorabilia is also full of fakes and forgeries. Look out for a seller’s reputation and his or her inventory. Ask to see the item in person or for certificates of authentication. And always remember, if the deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
What makes the Bootroom Collection special?
We guarantee the authenticity of our signed pieces by connecting each item of memorabilia to a unique QR code that is visible on the product, and when scanned by smartphone cameras, it directs the user to Instagram video footage of the “moment of signing” involving the renowned sporting hero. This is the biggest part of our work as we wanted to be able to show people where and when the item was signed so a fan can be transported to the moment their hero signed the item they are purchasing. This really takes away all the question of authenticity as you can actually see the item being signed and allows the owner of the piece to be part of the journey. We also work closely with our merchandising partners All-Stars and Icons, who in their own right are international industry leaders in the memorabilia sector with unparalleled access to teams and players for exclusive signings.