SBJ/August 27-September 2, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

NFL shifts Super Bowl merchandise game plan

Terry Lefton
Retail concession company Facility Merchandising Inc. will not have the rights to sell merchandise at Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, marking the first time in 24 years FMI won’t be selling Super Bowl merchandise at the venue hosting the NFL’s title game. FMI also had the rights to operate the store-within-the-NFL-Experience-store.

We’re fascinated by which companies will now have those valuable rights for the next NFL championship game — a combination of MainGate and Lids.

Licensed product retailer Lids, which has around 1,000 locations, will administer sales of Super Bowl-licensed products at hotels in and around New Orleans and at the cavernous store within the NFL Experience. While Lids has not had a dedicated concessions business previously, its 23,000-square-foot store within an abandoned Nordstrom in downtown Indianapolis during the Super Bowl in February must have turned some heads among league officials.

Lids’ 23,000-square-foot store at this year’s Super Bowl was “phenomenal,” one NFL exec said.
Photo by: TERRY LEFTON / STAFF
“We made a decision to try something new for this year,” said NFL consumer products chief Leo Kane.

Venue concessions expert MainGate, which held hotel sales rights for Super Bowl merchandise in Indianapolis, will handle game-day merchandise sales at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“What Lids did in Indianapolis was phenomenal, so we want to see what they can do with NFLX,” Kane said. “We liked what MainGate did at Indy, so they will have the key league hotel [rights], and we’re intrigued to see what they can do in-stadium. … We want to continue to try and go with partners that come to us with innovation.”

There is no official comment from any of the vendors involved.

We’re told, by reliable sources, that bidding on merchandise rights for the 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey, expected to be far more lucrative than the New Orleans affair, will begin in September. Still pending is the not-insignificant issue of where the NFL Experience will be located prior to Super Bowl XLVIII, which might make bidding a bit tricky.

MILITARY ESCALATION: Having experienced double-digit increases in brand awareness within the first season of a three-year NFL sponsorship, USAA, which insures servicemen and women and their families, is adding more firepower for this year’s campaign.

USAA Executive Director of Marketing Don Clark said brand “likability” was also up and that digital traffic was stimulated by ads within NFL telecasts. Given all the marketing noise within the hyperbolic insurance category, those positive metrics were enough to convince the league’s official military appreciation sponsor to amp up its NFL media budget, especially behind NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”

USAA is increasing its NFL club deals from less than a handful to 16 this year. The insurer will be lead sponsor in a Veterans Day tribute that would see those clubs hosting some sort of military appreciation effort.

USAA last year staged a few patriotic card stunts in stadiums. This year, it is hoping to have as many as seven.
Additionally, after research showed a connection between military personnel and fantasy players, USAA has launched a “military league.” Registered users are offered a sweepstakes overlay with a Super Bowl trip as top prize.

BOOMBASTIC: ESPN’s Chris Berman is back for his fourth year as a pitchman for Applebee’s restaurant chain. Despite the reassignment of creative duties by the casual dining chain to Crispin Porter earlier this year, “Boomer” remains an Applebee’s pitchman. Spots filmed in New Jersey earlier this month have him in a faux “test kitchen,” touting the Applebee’s Two for $20 Southwest Showdown meal combo.

Headline Media Management, New York, represents Berman.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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