Kit Tender Overview
During the 2017/18 academic year, it was announced that there would be a ‘tender’ for the supplier of our University sports kit. This meant that the contract would be advertised to suppliers to find out who could offer us the best deal, considering factors such as quality, level of service and cost. This kit is worn by students and DSDR and SU Sport staff.
The university sports kit market is very different to the general sportswear industry. Big brands don’t tend to bid on their own behalf, so when big brands appear at universities, they are generally under licence, where a 3rdparty supplier produces the kit with the big brands’ logos on it.
The contract with the current supplier, Surridge, expires in July 2019. Before we decided on who would be our next supplier, we had to go through stages of extensive research, application processing, presentations and testing.
Due to the massive number of students who are affected by who supplies our kit, research was carried out using a survey to understand student opinion on the current supplier and our processes. The survey was answered by 420 students and there were responses from all but 2 clubs, providing really good representation. Generally, people were happier with leisure kit than competition kit, and there was greater satisfaction with clubs who ordered from different suppliers. 75% of students said they’d be happy to pay more for higher quality products or a more notable brand.
Miles (Sports Department’s Sales and Marketing Manager) and Liam (University Purchasing Department) came to a couple of Sports GMs in semester 2 of 2018 to discuss the tender process. Committee members were asked to indicate a weighting of the importance of cost, quality and service in a new kit provider. Of 42 responses, students voted quality as the most important factor at 44%, cost second at 30% and service slightly lower at 26%. These weightings were included in the overall specification weightings after taking into account sponsorship and delivery, presented below:
- Quality (30%)
- Cost (30%)
- Service (25%)
- Delivery (10%)
- Partnership (5%)
Invitation to Tender
Based on all our research of students and the market, a specification was put together and invitations to tender were sent out to a large number of suppliers. This included instructions on the process, selection criteria for each lot, qualitative assessment, pricing, confirmation of their financial stability and a questionnaire for us to understand what each supplier can offer us. 11 companies were successful in submitting tender applications based on the minimum requirements that we set.
In October 2018, we had 2 very long meetings down at Virgil Building with Polly (SU Head of Activities), Greg (Deputy Director of Sport), Liam, Miles and Luke (Sales Assistant). We trawled through all the applications and came to agreements as a group on scoring for each supplier. The top 5 companies in scoring were then taken forward to the next stage. There were:
- New Balance
- Under Armour
- Surridge (our current supplier)
A month later, each company came to give presentations to the same panel. We then asked each supplier to explain their online customer experience, what marketing support they could provide, what innovation would they bring to their designs and how their sponsorship programme would work.
Previous scores were then amended based on answers to the questions and clarifications that were made on areas of the application.
Each company was then asked to provide kit samples for our students and staff. Because of differences in the level of anonymity suppliers were about to provide, some kit was entirely unbranded whilst some was fully identifiable. Additionally, some kit was made up to look like Bath kit (i.e. in blue and gold, with logos) whilst some was generic or the same as another university that they provide kit for. Because of this, we asked for feedback to only relate to the fit, comfort and actual materials the kit was made from, rather than any designs or branding as this would be agreed upon after the contract is signed.
Samples of playing, training and leisure kit were given in a range of men’s and women’s sizes to Football, Rugby, Hockey, Athletics, Basketball, American Football, Rowing, Netball and Lacrosse.
Individuals assigned kit were asked to wear it, wash it and review it based on durability, functionality, fit, quality of fabric and overall impression. These scores were collated and added to the matrix.
Suppliers were asked some final clarification questions around pricing and were given the opportunity to detail how any future partnership would work.
This month, the panel met to make the final decision. This was then followed by communication to each supplier with a period for them to challenge any part of the process. I’m now happy to say that period is over and I can announce that the successful supplier is…
Under Armour (Licensed by Dreamsport)
Out of the shortlisted suppliers, Under Armour scored highest in both staff and student reviews, offered a fantastic sponsorship package and delivery commitments.
We’re really excited to start fresh with a new supplier and it was great to be able to have so much student involvement in the process from the design of the specification to reviewing of samples.
The next steps are looking at how the relationship will work, sorting out designs and getting orders in, ready for next season!