Sat | Sep 21, 2019

Fight for the crest! - Illegal vendors unfazed by legal threats around bootlegging school-branded merchandise

Published:Thursday | March 22, 2018 | 12:00 AMRachid Parchment/ Sports News Coordinator
School-branded merchandise on sale at the National Stadium during the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships.
School-branded merchandise on sale at the National Stadium during the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls Athletics Championships.

Laribo Marketing and Consultants Managing Director Richard Bowen said that although some schools are resorting to legal threats to protect their symbols from bootlegging, the problem will not be easy to completely eliminate.

Laribo has been one of the main authorised vendors of school-related merchandise such as ties, flags, caps, and other clothing accessories for the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) since 2010, and, as such, has agreements set up with the traditionally better supported schools at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships (Champs) such as Kingston College (KC), Jamaica College (JC), Calabar High School, Wolmer's Boys' and Wolmer's Girls' Schools, Knox College, Edwin Allen High, and others.

Bowen, who is also a former vice-president of the Kingston College Old Boys' Association (OBA), said that bootleggers who vend on the streets in the vicinity of the National Stadium during Champs cut into between 18 and 25 per cent of Laribo's returns. This has led to schools such as Calabar and KC threatening lawsuits for persons caught using their crests without their permission.




Bowen is unsure whether the problem will ever go away, but said that action needs to be taken against it, regardless.

"I'm an eternal optimist, but I think it's a difficult task," Bowen said with a deep sigh. "But it can happen, with the considerable help and partnership between the schools and the authorities.

"We (Laribo) are not haughty enough to think it should be all about us. However, we have years of experience doing what we do. We know the protocol of the crests and you can't go outside that protocol with fandangles and graphics in the crest," he said.

He added that many bootleggers use explicit marketing with regard to school logos and symbols, forgetting that Champs is very heavily focused on children.

One street vendor, who was seen selling school flags for $200 and ties for $300, who asked not to be identified, said that the use of the schools' crests and other symbols is not as big a problem as they are making it out to be, especially since many vendors are not making a profit.

"Di people dem naa mek nuh money off a it, so why dem a harass wi bout it?" he asked. "There's no selling off. You buy $10,000 worth of goods and sell $3,000 worth when Champs done. What kinda profit you can make out of this? The people pressuring us are billionaires. They should leave the people on the street alone. What dem want, di woman dem fi sell dem body instead? We have kids to mind. Some of us have five, 10 kids."

Two other vendors, who also requested anonymity, said that they are unfazed by threats of legal action if caught selling high-school branded merchandise.