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Volume 21 No. 2
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NFLPA reports increase in licensing, merch revenue

The NFLPA rode big increases in payments from the NFL and video game company Electronic Arts to a 24 percent jump in licensing and merchandise revenue, to $167 million in the 12 months ended Feb. 28. The figures come from a SportsBusiness Journal analysis of the union’s recently filed annual reports with the Department of Labor.

The union’s assets rose 16 percent to $465 million. Since 2013, NFLPA licensing, merchandise and sponsorship revenue has jumped 79 percent, according to an analysis of the last four NFLPA annual reports.

The NFLPA recently voted to divert licensing revenue from the players into a labor disturbance fund, a common strategy at this stage of a collective-bargaining agreement life cycle. The NFL and players union have begun preparing for the end of the CBA in four seasons.

Those funds, if unused, are returned to players once a new CBA is signed.

Asked last month at the NFL spring meeting about the league’s war chest, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash replied that the league would prepare financially for all scenarios.

Somewhat ironically, it is the NFL itself that is boosting the union’s bottom line. Under an agreement with the players union not to sign rival sponsorships, the league pays the union. In the most recent 12-month reporting period the sum came to $61.5 million, a 10 percent increase.

The second biggest contributor to the NFLPA was Electronic Arts at $47 million, a nearly $20 million increase from the year before. Before the 2011 lockout, the NFLPA reported EA payments in the mid-$30 million range. The numbers dipped and then disappeared until last year, with speculation that the union arranged a front-loaded payment during the lockout period. The group did not need to report numbers during those four months, and never answered why the dollars reported from the video game maker declined so precipitously.

The union in the most recent fiscal year also took in $25 million from trading cards company Panini and $10 million from Nike.

The union’s ACE Media, a production and media unit formed in 2015, generated nearly $1 million in revenue. The top client was the National Basketball Players Association, which paid the NFLPA $369,000.

Peyton Manning, even though he is retired, was again the top earner among all NFL active and retired players, pulling in $2.6 million. That represents his fees for participating in NFLPA group licensing deals and sponsorship appearances. The next highest was Drew Brees at $1.677 million, followed by J.J. Watt at $1.542 million.

Those sums do not represent the players’ total endorsement income, but only what they bring in with deals signed though the NFLPA, such as EA video games.

The NFLPA also had some good fortune help its balance sheet: a $3.062 million tax refund.