SBJ/January 7-13, 2013/Colleges

Title game a No. 1 vs. No. 2 retail showdown

It’ll be No. 1 vs. No. 2 when Notre Dame and Alabama meet in the BCS championship game. That’s not only their ranking in the BCS poll, it’s also their ranking in merchandise sales, according to one of the largest online retailers of officially licensed sports gear.

Notre Dame was the hottest seller in college football this season.
Photo by: ICON SMI
Notre Dame was the top-selling school during the college football season, according to Fanatics.com, and Alabama was No. 2. The Crimson Tide ranked first in merchandise sold for much of the season, but Notre Dame’s unexpected rise to prominence and eventually an undefeated regular season lifted the Fighting Irish’s sales to first around mid-October, said Meier Raivich, vice president of communications and corporate branding at Fanatics.

Not only did the Irish see a huge uptick over the course of the season, their year-over-year sales increase was 223 percent, easily the largest leap of any school.

Notre Dame’s national fan base lived up to its reputation, too. More than 90 percent of customers who bought Irish gear this season live outside of Indiana, and Notre Dame merchandise this season has been purchased from all 50 states on Fanatics.com.

Both schools use Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Co. as their licensing agency, and CLC’s overall licensing numbers, which take into account all retailers, show that Alabama ranks second in sales, just behind perennial No. 1 Texas. Notre Dame, which hovered around No. 10 or 11 in CLC’s rankings in recent years, jumped to No. 6 for the period from July through September.

Heading into this football season, CLC’s rankings translated to $9.5 million in annual licensing revenue for the Longhorns and $9 million for the Crimson Tide for fiscal 2012. This season’s specific licensing revenue figures for Notre Dame weren’t available, but in past years it was estimated to be $4 million to $5 million annually by industry experts.

A national championship, which would be Notre Dame’s first since the 1988 season, would provide more of a financial lift to the Irish than it would for Alabama. The Crimson Tide won championships in the 2009 and 2011 seasons, so fans tend not to buy as much national championship gear when a school has won one recently, said Cory Moss, senior vice president and managing director of CLC, an IMG College business.

A title in the past has meant as much as $2 million in additional licensing revenue to the winning school. For schools like Alabama that recently won a title, the lift is more like $1 million to $1.5 million.

“A Notre Dame victory has the potential to be the biggest national championship program we’ve ever had,” Moss said. “It could be huge.”

But it’s also a boon for counterfeiters. The combination of the two marquee programs and the game’s location in Miami Gardens, Fla., makes this game potentially an enforcement nightmare for CLC, which will scour the areas around the stadium to confiscate unlicensed merchandise. Large cities like Miami and Los Angeles tend to produce the most unlicensed goods, Moss said.

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