While NFL TV ratings have declined slightly this season, there is no doubt that the league has seen tremendous growth on and off the field over the past decade. An ever-expanding fan base, which now includes more than 84 million women, has paid huge dividends for a league expected to cash in over $ 13 billion in revenue by the end of the season. Arguably the biggest area of growth for the league in recent years has been in ancillary revenue streams like licensed consumer goods, and more specifically, apparel and accessories sales.
While the fans were able purchase their favorite player’s jersey for decades, thanks to the leagues’ emphasis on expanding partnerships and product diversification, it is only recently that it has become the norm for casual fans to wear designer clothing outside of match days. While wearing a New York Giants t-shirt or an Oakland Raiders sweatshirt on any day, but Sunday may have been frowned upon in the past, fans can now represent the colors of their favorite team in any setting thanks to the league’s new partnerships with premium brands like Tommy Bahama, Alex and Ani, and Levi’s.
Many industry analysts argue that the league has finally reached a critical mass in terms of diversity and fan base size, in which forging such partnerships makes sense if the goal is to tap into new ones. areas of revenue growth. But in many ways, the league itself thinks the opposite – expanding its off-court product is as much a vehicle for attracting fans to the game itself as the game is for selling more merchandise.
“Our expanded product lines for apparel and other consumer packaged goods have never been about slapping league or team brands on as many products as possible,” explains Rhiannon madden, vice president of consumer products at the NFL. “Our approach has always been strategic in the sense of incremental improvement – we want the NFL and its shield to be a way of life, not just an allegiance one day a week. Each year our product offering improves a bit, becomes more sophisticated and better reflects the habits and interests of our fans. Our goal has always been to make our fans feel as comfortable wearing our products as any other brand, ”she explains.
In keeping with that thinking, the 2016 NFL product line is the most diverse to date, with extensive offerings, campaigns, and brand ambassadors for both men and women. Of course, it’s the leagues that have continued to focus recently on this latter demographic that best reflects their view of apparel as a vehicle for increased fan base growth among women. From pop-up clothing stores to ‘style salons’ in stadiums, to print and TV advertising targeting women and a line of junior girls’ clothing, the league’s investment in targeting women has been significant throughout. in recent years. Most importantly, their evolution into various styles, including the ever popular athleisure category (think Lululemon) as well as high and low fashion (a mix of designer pieces and street style).
“Our new lines aren’t just the feminine version of a men’s product,” exclaims Madden. “We have worked for a very long time with partners like Dooney & Burke and Levi’s to create products designed for women that make them feel as comfortable as they would with any other brand. From hoodies and tank tops, yoga pants, handbags and jewelry, each of our products has been carefully tailored to the needs and wants of today’s female NFL fans, ”adds she does.
Equally impressive is the expansion of the league’s products on the men’s side, with clothing lines that allow men to show their allegiance everywhere – at the gym, at restaurants, with the family or now even in casual business settings. With Tommy Bahama sweaters retailing for up to $ 150, there’s no doubt the league believes their male fans are ready to go way beyond the standard t-shirt and cap and invest in merchandise. high quality brands they are already doing business. with. A brand ambassador program that includes Rams running back Todd Gurley, Jets wide receiver Eric Decker and Denver Broncos defensive end Von Miller, uses the power of the league’s all-star to help bring a macho sex appeal to league offers.
Overall, the continued expansion of the NFL’s apparel and other high-quality CPG lines is positive proof of the league’s healthy growth within mainstream American culture, regardless of what the critics may say. half-season declining ratings. And as the league’s international fan base continues to grow, particularly in fashion Europe, the potential for new design collaborations and new product offerings for fans remains incredibly bright for the foreseeable future.