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Following a successful year in '94, NFL Properties reveals their merchandising plans for '95-96 in the current issue of SPORTING GOODS BUSINESS. INSIDE THE NUMBERS: A SGB survey of 207 retailers, representing 1,935 stores, shows that sales of NFLP merchandise increased 4.1% in '94. Department stores and mass merchants had the strongest year with sales growth of 10.1%, but sporting good stores/team dealers "were not as optimistic, signaling a growth" of only 1.1% over the past year. Due in part to the success of the Lions, Packers, Bears, and Vikings, the North Central region showed the greatest increase at 6.3%, with the West up 5%, the South up 2.7%, and the Northeast up 2%. The Northeast's weak showing was due largely to the decline of the Giants and Eagles, and the warm weather at Christmas. Of top selling brands, Starter led three of four categories, including headgear, fleece/sweatshirts, and outerwear (Greg Pesky, SGB, 3/95). BACK TO THE FUTURE: With sales possibly hitting a ceiling, NFLP plans to "focus more closely on the core equity of football and the NFL," including its three-tiered merchandising plan and "the program each tier umbrellas:" Performance (Pro Line), Lifestyle (Throwbacks), and Family (NFL Kids, NFL at Home, Back to School, and Game Day). Part of the plan is also to add large apparel companies such as Reebok, Russell, and VF Corp to reduce the "base of licensees" and "create a greater scarcity" of product to "revitalize demand." NFLP VP/Worldwide Retail Licensing Jim Connelly: "There is a feeling now that our product is too spread out, that there is not enough innovation upstairs and too much dumping of our product downstairs." Connelly cites Reebok's "marketing prowess" as a key component to the NFL Pro Line, and says NFLP will continue to push jerseys by giving more interpretations of the uniform, similar to the Throwbacks. NFLP Dir of Youth Licensing Peter Lapointe said NFL Kids is an area for more growth. Lapointe says home products, back-to-school merchandise, and video games are "untapped and growing areas" that are perfect for children. Lapointe also wants promotions that bring a "broad spectrum of corporations together to drive" retail sales. Lapointe: "Let's use McDonald's ads on Fox to direct purchases at JCPenney stores where all kids licenses are displayed in one shop concept." Also stressed is "NFL at Home," which includes domestic products, electronics and home furnishings, among others (Alisa Klemm, SGB, 3/95 issue). GONE HOLLYWOOD: NFLP Dir of Marketing Doug Quinn feels the "Hollywood Factor" or the "link between TV drama and sports may be growing stronger." For example, expect to see NFL players with cameos on "Melrose Place" and other Fox shows, as well as NFL merchandise placements. Quinn sees this as a way to appeal to women, much as the way the film "Little Giants" worked with children. Besides Hollywood, the division is also "committed to supporting sales at the retail level." NFLP Senior Dir of Marketing Ray Katz: "We really feel we are way ahead of the other leagues in the area of retail support." The league will continue with successful promos like the "Painted Bus Promotion" where fans win a trip to an NFL game on the painted bus and receive a Starter bag and a tailgate party catered by McDonald's. Katz also plans to work closer with retailers like JC Penney, Foot Locker, Macy's and The Sports Authority regarding the way "we present our product in the store, and the way we support it in an environment that is appealing, exciting and sets up apart." In addition, NFLP may look to "design permanent and semi- permanent fixturing similar to that offered" by Reebok and Nike (Alisa Klemm, SGB, 3/95). 1994 WINNERS: The issue gives its top three prizes for the SGB/NFLP Retail Merchandising Awards. First prize went to Carson Pirie Scott and VP Chuck Luckenbill for "his visual quarterbacking of the retailer's NFL-specific display at its Chicago location" (SGB, 3/95 issue).
Senior PGA Tour players Tom Weiskopf, Gary Player, Dick Rhyan, Lee Elder and Orville Moody have agreed to form "Team Bayer." The team will become part of "Strokes Against Strokes," a new awareness and fundraising initiative to help fight strokes. The fight will be led by Bayer Corp., the American Heart Association and the PGA Tour (Bayer). CARLYLE: Denver-based Carlyle Golf Inc. has signed a multiyear agreement with pro golfer David Frost to endorse the company's golf apparel (Carlyle).
In the current issue of TENNIS magazine, Editor Donna Doherty defends the latest Nike campaign that features hats and shirts that proclaim "tennis sucks," even though she admits that she doesn't "love" the campaign. Doherty calls it the "ultimate in anti-hero marketing," and writes, "C'mon guys, lighten up" (TENNIS, 4/95 issue)....The Collegiate Licensing Co. has announced its top selling manufacturers and universities for '94- 95 fiscal year-to-date. The top five colleges: Michigan, FSU, UNC, Tennessee and Alabama. Heading the licensee list: Starter, Champion, Nutmeg Mills, Brazos Sportswear and CS Crable....(SPORTING GOODS BUSINESS, 3/95 issue).... Madison Sports & Entertainment Group, Inc. has signed a letter of agreement to acquire Bizarre Snowboards Inc. (Madison Sports)....The LPGA has formally announced plans for a Dinah Shore Scholarship Fund to be administered through the LPGA Foundation (LPGA)....According to preliminary results of the '94 Int'l Health Racquet & Sports Club Assoc./American Sports Data study on health club trends, the number of health club members in the U.S. grew by 10% for the second consecutive year (IHRSA). CLARIFICATION: Sony's release on Sony Signatures' selection as exclusive licensing and merchandising company for World Cup '98 incorrectly identified the World Cup's representative. It is ISL Marketing AG of Switzerland.
Officials from Mobil Corp., in conjunction with Cotton Bowl executives, announced that the company is dropping its sponsorship of the bowl game, effective immediately. Mobil cited the bowl's lost tie-in with the soon-to-be defunct Southwest Conference as its primary reason for breaking an association that began in August '88. A clause in the 7-year, $10M contract allowed Mobil to break the agreement in the event the SWC champion no longer participated in the game. Cotton Bowl Athletic Association President John Crawford said Mobil provided a $1M grant to bowl officials to use during the transition period until another title sponsor can be found. Crawford said they are seeking a replacement sponsor and confirmed they have had talks with Dr Pepper and Southwest Airlines. The '96 game is not in jeopardy if a sponsor is not found. Starting next year, the Cotton Bowl will match the second choice from the future Big 12 Conference with either the WAC champion or the No. 2 team from the Pac 10. In Ft. Worth, Jimmy Burch notes that the Cotton Bowl finds itself searching for sponsorships at the same time as the area's three pro golf tournaments: The Colonial, Byron Nelson Classic and the area's Senior PGA Tour event (FT. WORTH STAR- TELEGRAM, 3/29).