Photographer: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg

To Foil Counterfeiters, Rio 2016 Makes Its Own Knockoffs

  • Rio hosting Games amid Brazil’s worst recession in decades
  • Two-tier pricing gives locals more affordable options

At the official Rio 2016 Megastore on Copacabana Beach, a white T-shirt emblazoned with the swoopy, multi-colored logo of the Summer Olympics sells for 95 reais ($29).

A half-hour away in Rio de Janeiro’s sprawling downtown market, a nearly identical shirt sells for just 40 reais. The fabric is thinner, but it’s no knockoff -- the low-cost version also has the blessing of the official Olympic organizing committee.

Olympic apparel on sale at an official Rio 2016 store in Rio de Janeiro.

Photographer: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg

With many Brazilians unable to afford Olympics tickets or souvenirs, organizers have taken a novel approach to merchandising. In addition to plenty of higher-end gear at tourist price-points, the committee has also licensed a slew of copycat paraphernalia that sells for much less.

Olympic organizers typically license souvenirs at only one price, then aggressively go after cheap fakes. Rio 2016’s strategy is designed to beat counterfeiters at their own game and to appeal to locals in a country where the average minimum wage is 880 reais ($270) a month, said Sylmara Multini, head of licensing at Rio 2016.

“The best way to combat piracy is by using product,” Multini said in an interview. “If you have a 40-real T-shirt, we feel most of the population will be able to engage with our product.”

100 Stores

The two-tiered pricing also means Rio 2016 can capture the enthusiasm of Olympic tourists who are buying, essentially, at a discount. The Brazilian real has fallen 46 percent against the dollar since Rio was awarded the games.

The cheaper versions are expected to account for 60 percent of sales and 40 percent of revenue, Multini said. Overall sales were expected to generate 1 billion reais, but the recession means it will probably be less.

Customers browse for merchandise.

Photographer: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg

“A year ago I thought we were going to be even harder hit,” Multini said.

Rio 2016 gets a margin of 10 to 20 percent of each product sold. There are more than 100 official stores across the country selling more than 5,000 official products, including apparel, watches, jewelry, Lego and even an official wine.

For Locals

In the bustling SAARA market, delivery boys wound through the narrow streets pushing trolleys laden with crates stamped “Olimpiadas.” At one of the four Dimona shops in the market, staff unpacked dozens of boxes of Olympic gear. Leo Zonenschein, whose family has been running Dimona for 50 years, said Olympics-related sales will add 35 percent to his bottom line this year amid a slump in regular business.

“The Olympic Games came at the best time possible because we were having lots of trouble,” said Zonenschein.

Visiting from the Amazon capital Manaus, 36-year-old Andre Monteiro went first to the Megastore in Copacabana and found it too expensive. At Dimona, he bought seven Rio 2016 shirts for 317 reais. “It’s original,” he said. “Most people don’t have the means to buy original products. The situation we live in today isn’t good.”

An official Rio 2016 store.

Photographer: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg

One T-Shirt Up

In the Megastore, foreign tourists see it differently. Francis Kendall, a 52-year-old Briton who lives in San Francisco, spent about 300 reais on three T-shirts and a set of shot glasses. “It’s cheaper than you’d get in the States and cheaper than the U.K.,” he said.

To Multini, there’s little downside. “The crisis started in Brazil and then the dollar started to go up. If Brazilians were going to buy two T-shirts, now they’ll buy one. If the foreigners were going to buy two, now they’ll buy four. We’re one T-shirt up.”

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