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Volume 21 No. 47
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Merchandise record in NFL’s sights

The NFL is tracking toward record Super Bowl merchandise sales of more than $200 million leading up to the game, largely because of its New York/New Jersey site and the two teams that will be playing there.

Speaking before last weekend’s AFC and NFC championship games, Leo Kane, NFL senior vice president of consumer products, pointed to the strong NFL markets of the four finalists as a key factor for driving Super Bowl retail sales. The site of the game, in the midst of North America’s biggest market, also looms large.

“We have not had a Super Bowl that isn’t over $100 million in retail in a number of years, and that would include the playoff run-up, the two competing markets and at-venue,” Kane said. “We’ve gotten in the $200 million area before and we think we’ve got a real good chance to go over $200 million this year at retail. We’re in position to perhaps set a record.”

Two years ago, the NFL hit the $200 million mark when the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, league officials confirmed. In addition, the NFL has been “right in the neighborhood” of $200 million for past Super Bowls involving the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, Kane said.

Super Bowl merchandise sales include all items featuring the Super Bowl mark, many of which were introduced in the New York market months ago, and will eventually include the winning team’s hot-market sales.

This year, the difference maker is New York City, where the NFL expects to do so much more business than it would typically do in a Super Bowl market because of the large number of tourists in town and the extensive retail setup, Kane said.

For the first time, the league is opening a giant NFL Shop at Super Bowl, setting up inside the Macy’s department store at 34th and Broadway in Manhattan, at the southern edge of Super Bowl Boulevard. The 36,000-square-foot retail space opens Wednesday.

“Many years, we don’t open up [official Super Bowl retail sites] until the Thursday before the game,” Kane said, “so we’ll have eight additional days at Macy’s.”

Lids, the national sports hat chain, is a partner in the Macy’s operation. Lids employees are responsible for purchasing the merchandise, and Macy’s workers will sell the items in their building, Kane said.

In a cold-weather locale, Sportservice expects hats and scarves to be a big part of its merchandise mix.
“It’s our greatest brand presentation,” he said. “There will be lots of traditional retailers like JCPenney, Old Navy and Champs buying [Super Bowl product], but they won’t have the NFL Shop branding.”

At MetLife Stadium, meanwhile, Delaware North Sportservice is preparing for its first Super Bowl operation in company history. The firm runs both the food and retail at the home of the Jets and Giants and protected its home turf by winning the Super Bowl merchandise contract.

The league typically hires an outside vendor to run that piece of the business on site. MainGate and FMI combined have exclusively sold merchandise at-venue for the past 25 Super Bowls.

MainGate was awarded this year’s Super Bowl retail contract at 40 NFL-sanctioned hotels.

“Because this is the first outdoor game in cold weather, having familiarity and a seasoned staff in a building the size of MetLife [Stadium] — we saw that as an advantage to the NFL,” said Jeff Hess, Sportservice’s vice president of retail. “That was part of our conversation with them about the opportunity to do the retail services.”

The NFL cut a separate deal with Modell’s Sporting Goods for Super Bowl gear sold at the stadium, Kane said. On site, fans will see branding that spells out NFL Shop at Super Bowl Presented by Modell’s Sporting Goods. Last year, Lids filled that role for retail operator MainGate.

“The Delaware Norths and MainGates of the world aren’t really consumer-facing retail brands like Lids and Modell’s are,” Kane said.

Sportservice will have about 350 Super Bowl items to choose from at the stadium and has more than tripled its points of sale inside and outside the facility compared with a regular-season NFL game, Hess said.

“Our strategy is to make sure folks have all they need as it relates to outdoor weather gear and supplemental items that they might not have thought to bring,” he said. “That will certainly be a big part of our merchandise mix, particularly knit headwear and scarves.”

To expedite sales, Sportservice will use 25 customized iPods in the stadium’s 10,000-square-foot team store to complete transactions as a “line-busting” maneuver, the same wireless technology it has used for World Series games, Hess said.

Sportservice doubled the number of premium-level retail stands for the Super Bowl and signed a deal with Mounted Memories to sell licensed autographed helmets, poster frames and other items tied to the two Super Bowl teams in both sideline clubs.

The vendor’s reach extends outside the stadium, as well, operating merchandise kiosks inside seven Welcome Pavilions, the 20,000-square-foot warming tents where Super Bowl attendees will have their tickets scanned and will go through security. Super Bowl championship gear will be for sale in the same pavilions as fans exit the game, Hess said.

The Gameday Fan Plaza, situated between the pavilions and the stadium, will have six 40-foot trailers selling Super Bowl trinkets.

Across from the stadium, Sportservice will sell Super Bowl merchandise at the Meadowlands Racetrack, site of the official NFL Tailgate Party for corporate sponsors and other VIPs, and the Izod Center, part of the league’s On Location premium ticket package. The Tailgate Party alone is expected to draw more than 10,000 people, Hess said.

Additionally, Sportservice won the right to sell Super Bowl programs and will have 350 employees hawking those items at the stadium.

“We have no doubt that because of the size of New York and because of the cold weather, this will be far and away the largest at-venue Super Bowl sales we’ve had,” Kane said.