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Favre provides licensing headline, but flat year expected

Just like last year, when you talk about the NFL’s licensing business at the start of the season, it begins with Brett Favre. Last season saw Favre wearing new team colors, and that established sales records. Now Favre is with the Minnesota Vikings and again fueling jersey sales.

“We were wondering how to anniversary Favre,” Leo Kane, NFL consumer products vice president, said with a laugh. “Turns out, we’re doing it with Favre.”

The question is whether demand for Favre’s Minnesota jersey will exceed the records established during his lone year with the New York Jets, and that depends on the supply and demand of fabric.

Will the Vikings edition
of the Favre jersey beat
last year’s Jets version?

“We just can’t get enough purple right now,” said David Baxter, president of the Adidas Group's Sports Licensed Division. “Every piece we get goes right out the door, and we had a lot more inventory for his Jets jersey because it was the New York market.”

With the recession, Kane is joining other large property executives in forecasting a flat year for NFL licensing. “That’s a conservative estimate, based on the economy, but retailers are playing it safe, so they’ll have to chase demand if and when teams or players get hot,” he said.

Other NFL players generating interest include Terrell Owens and Michael Vick. After a strong Super Bowl performance, Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is also starting to show some national appeal at retail, Kane said. Among the biggest licensing programs this season is a legacy program that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the AFL with a series of games, along with retro product for all teams.

NFL Shop, the NFL’s catalog and online licensing business, looks like it will outperform the market. Bob O’Keefe, senior director of NFL Direct, is forecasting 10 percent sales growth. Last year, NFL Shop’s sales grew by 18 percent. The sheer number of NFL Shop catalogs is also expanding. Last year’s 16-page NFL Kickoff catalog was sent to 2.2 million homes. This year, it is going to 3.2 million homes and runs 68 pages. NFL Shop plans to send more than 11 million catalogs before the season ends, including two holiday books, which will exceed 100 pages.

“With catalogs, our research has told us bigger is better,” O’Keefe said. “They last longer in homes and are a real stimulus to online shopping.”

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