Maiden Success Souvenir Sales Strong Ahead of Women's World Cup

It wasn't easy, but for the first time ever, official collector stickers have been printed for this year's Women's World Cup in Germany. Printer Panini struggled to get player information and photos, but steady sales show the neglected sport could finally be coming into its own.

Women's World Cup collector stickers.

Women's World Cup collector stickers.

Getting fans excited about women's football has been challenging since the first female World Cup tournament was held in 1991. But with just nine days until the 2011 tournament kicks off in Germany, the popularity of a favorite fan pasttime indicates increasing interest in the feminine side of the traditionally male sport.

Sports sticker album maker Panini this week reported surprisingly good sales of its first-ever collection of Women's World Cup sticker albums. Wholesalers have snapped up the first 4.5 million packets of the milestone stickers since they were released two weeks ago, prompting Panini to print another one million, company spokeswoman Christine Fröhler told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

The brisk sales of the sticker packets are a relief after a challenging start to the project -- gathering player data and photos was so difficult that information remains missing on some player stickers. "For everyone involved this was new territory," Fröhler said. "It wasn't easy to get information on the photos -- there are gaps."

Mexico accidentally sent their men's team photos, while many nations failed to produce complete player profiles that included birthplace, birthdate, height and home football club, she said. Despite some 41 years of experience in producing the collectible stickers, Panini itself also made a mistake -- using the same photo for two different North Korean players who happen to have the same last name.

And though it's standard for the men's stickers, the Modena, Italy-based company also opted to leave out bodyweight from players' descriptions. "It's just much more charming without the weight," Fröhler said. "Besides, it would have been impossible to get all the information."

'The Conditions Are Right'

Despite the growing pains, sales indicate the venture will be a success, though on "a much different scale" than the men's World Cup stickers, she explained. For starters, there aren't as many players. Only 16 teams will compete in this year's tournament -- half the number that played in the men's World Cup in South Africa in 2010. That year Panini sold some 90 million sticker packets.

While the 32 women's matches at the FIFA event are not expected to garner nearly as much interest as the male equivalent does every four years, Panini still felt the growing profile of the sport meant the market was ready for women's stickers. "Right now the conditions are right," Fröhler said. "It's in Germany where the 2006 men's World Cup was such a huge success and the country has a strong team this year."

Ticket sales also indicate that the tournament, which runs between June 26 and July 17, will also be a success. About 75 percent of the 900,000 tickets have been sold, retired German football star and head of the Local Organising Committee Steffi Jones announced on Thursday. "We're well on course to meet our target of filling the stadiums to 80 percent capacity," she added.

Panini's official FIFA Women's World Cup sticker packets are available only in Germany for €0.60 ($0.85). The collector's album runs for €2.


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