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Volume 21 No. 34
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Nike extends on-field deal with the NFL

Nike has quietly renewed its massive NFL on-field apparel rights contract, adding three years to the five-year deal that took effect in the 2012 NFL season.

In keeping its NFL exclusive without an auction, Nike retains one of its most powerful domestic sports marketing assets through the 2019 season. The on-field rights extension also blocks Under Armour, which surpassed Adidas last year to become the second-largest domestic athletic apparel/footwear brand behind Nike, from the valuable partnership.

Industry sources said Nike and the NFL had been talking about an extension since last fall. This marks the NFL’s first significant licensing deal since a reorganization at the league last year that saw the consumer products business team switch its report from Eric Grubman to Brian Rolapp, both of whom are executive vice presidents. In August, Rolapp moved Chris Halpin from vice president of media strategy and business development to senior vice president of licensing and consumer products.

Sources described the Nike extension as having slightly expanded licensing rights, and additional fees, which are frontloaded, something that should get the new consumer products leadership kudos within league circles.

With the Nike renewal completed, the NFL is now looking to complete similar extensions with its other large apparel licensees, including New Era, Outerstuff and VF/Majestic.

GOLDEN RULES: The NFL is looking for a record sales year with a Super Bowl 50 licensing program that launches softly around the NFL draft on April 30 in Chicago. The program will roll out in earnest around October and continue through the Feb. 7 Super Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif. What will actually be two Super Bowl licensing programs this year is making league licensing officials confident the golden 50th anniversary will help eclipse its previous sales record from the New York City Super Bowl two years ago. Along with the normal licensing program around the NFL championship game, the league is rolling out “Super Bowl on the 50,” a retro program.

NFL officials expect the golden anniversary of the Super Bowl next year to set licensing records.
All photos by: TERRY LFETON / STAFF
“The idea is to celebrate the past 49 winners in conjunction with our [50th] anniversary,” Halpin said.

Convinced that the Super Bowl is “the ultimate expression of America,” the league is putting substantial assets against its golden anniversary, including 50-yard-line “gold” branding across every field during the upcoming season, the introduction of more gold trim into on-field apparel starting in October, and no less than 19 Super Bowl rematches on the 2015 schedule. The NFL season starts Aug. 9 at the

Gold toaster with 50th Super Bowl logo from Pangea Brands
Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, with a rematch of Super Bowl IX: Minnesota vs. Pittsburgh.

At the NFL Consumer Products Summit in Houston, there were a number of licensed products bearing the gold 50 logo, including a collapsible tailgating table from Picnic Time; a gold 50th-logoed toaster from the small appliance wizards at Pangea Brands; 15 to 20 commemorative 50th footballs from Wilson; a beanbag toss game from Wild Sports; wastebaskets from Fremont Die; and a boxed commemorative gold watch for each Super Bowl champion from Sparo Watches/Rico, packaged with a USB containing game highlights.

New Era will test the mettle of its “liquid metal” logo caps on this year’s draft picks.
The metallic theme begins at the draft where the newest NFL players will don New Era caps with “liquid metal” team logos. WinCraft had the first Super Bowl 50 products idea with a lapel pin at the most recent Super Bowl. Company President and COO John Killen said his company will “easily have more than 100 SKUs” of commemorative products.

“We’re getting a Super Bowl program that will last months instead of a month or so,” said Jim Pisani, president of VF Corp.’s licensed sports group. “That’s a great story for us to take to retail.”

Most licensees were bullish on the program. “This is all just a warmup for the [NFL’s] 100th anniversary in 2019,” one joked.

PRODUCT-IVE: As is tradition at the Consumer Products Summit, the NFL feted licensees which generated $1 million in licensing royalties to the league for the first time. Honored this year were premium house BDA; Sports Licensing Solutions, manufacturers of car, door, and other logoed Fan Mats; drinkware specialist Great American Products; OtterBox, which markets water resistant or shock resistant cases for mobile devices; and jeweler manufacturer/retailer Pandora. The latter two are especially notable, since they each hit the million-dollar mark in their first year as an NFL licensee.

Brad Owings, Pandora senior manager of new business development, said the product line didn’t even launch until May.

“There’s still a lot of upside,” he said. “We’re not even in any of the Dallas Cowboys stores yet.”

The success of Pandora’s sterling silver and 14K gold NFL charms and charm bracelets (suggested retail price of $65 to $160) is a bull’s-eye for the league’s long-standing efforts targeting female fans, and a testament to the retailer’s extensive distribution network, which includes many Pandora-branded stores. The Green Bay Packers alone sold more than $200,000 in Pandora products.

Meanwhile, OtterBox’s honor is also significant, since mobile phone cases and accessories are among the most overlicensed products in the industry.

Kohl’s was named retailer of the year, largely due to its support of the seasonlong “NFL Fan Style” mobile tour, which the mid-tier retailer hosted six times during the mobile tour’s 26-city journey.

After opening a new 21,500-square-foot team store at Lambeau Field, the Packers took home Team Retailer of the Year honors. A new restaurant at Lambeau is next.

SIGN LANGUAGE: At every show, it gets more difficult to find licensed sports products we haven’t seen a logo on before, but in Houston, there were a few new entrants. New Jersey-based GameWear’s original offerings were bracelets, fashioned after leather balls of various types. More recently, the company veered into licensed pet products, including collars, leashes and bowls. Leveraging that channel of distribution, GameWear is now offering licensed NFL dog treats, which will carry team logos on both the one-pound box they will be packaged in and on each individual treat. Is a $9.99 retail price point too high for an all-natural product, made in America, with no preservatives?

“NFL fans and pet fans are both fanatical, so we’re hoping the combination will work,” said GameWear CEO Frank Cerullo, adding that MLB-licensed dog snacks are next.

We’re slightly more skeptical about the licensed NFL lint roller ($9.99) from Duck House, though if the licensees’ claim that it will be the last lint roller you’ll ever buy can be substantiated, perhaps it can succeed.

Another new product featuring team logos are NFL drumsticks ($10 to $25) from Woodrow Guitar/The Sports Vault, which is an expansion of its musical line that includes licensed guitars, straps, picks and cases.

LICENSING LINES: Fanatics has added the New York Jets and Detroit Lions to its roster of 15 NFL teams for which it handles e-commerce, along with NFLshop.com. … The Cleveland Browns are still the only team without a logo on their helmets, but the Browns’ new uniform is creating some buzz. It’s expected to be unveiled April 14. “Look at Seattle’s success and you see that if you give fans a whole platform to rally around, it really works,” said Leo Kane, NFL senior vice president of consumer products. … Former Buffalo Bills QB Jim Kelly’s company, Jim Kelly Inc., is expanding beyond licensed sports binder clips to include licensed key racks, an idea which came from his dad. Mykeyholder should be at retail by September at $9.95 to $14.95. … Most arresting statistic from the summit: EA showed the biggest sales increase of any NFL licensee, “significant double digits,” according to Kane. Pretty impressive, since the “NFL Madden” video game has been around since 1994. … For a hard-goods licensee, Michael Lewis’ Forever Collectibles seems to have a more extensive apparel line at each show. More extensions of its “ugly sweater” holiday hit were on display in Houston, along with hoodies, NFL-licensed rugby shirts and basketball-styled polyester training shorts. On the hard-goods side, Forever Collectibles is marketing “Team Elves,” a sports-licensed version of the popular “Elf on the Shelf.”