By  on February 2, 2005

NEW YORK — Football fans will gleefully slap down their credit cards and cough up cash for the Super Bowl. And it’s not just for bean dip and beer.

Consumers will spend about $5.6 billion prepping for Super Sunday this year on everything from jerseys, caps and memorabilia to high-definition TVs and, yes, salsa, according to the National Retail Federation.

This national rite “can make a retailer’s year if they have one or two of the championship teams in their marketplace,” said Kenny Gamble, senior director of National Football League merchandise for Reebok Ltd.

This game is particularly important for retailers in Philadelphia and New England.

Eagles partisans have been waiting since 1981 for their team to return to the Super Bowl, when the Eagles were crushed by the Oakland Raiders, 27-10. The team hasn’t won an NFL championship since Dec. 26, 1960 — before the Super Bowl existed — when the Eagles defeated the Green Bay Packers 17-13.

“We are having complete Eagles frenzy,” said Jennifer Gorski, director of mall marketing in the Philadelphia region for Simon Property Group Inc., the largest U.S. mall owner. “It’s absolutely insane. There are people in this area that have waited if not all their lives, then most of their lives for this.’’

At Simon’s malls in Philadelphia and Delaware County — “we don’t go into [Pittsburgh] Steelers territory” — sales of licensed product is soaring. “Millions of dollars in sales just in Philadelphia” would not be an overstatement, she said.

New England Patriots fans, on the other hand, have seen their team win two of the last three Super Bowls. The Foxboro, Mass.-based Pats have no underdog cachet, but may be on the verge of that most elusive of professional sports goals — a dynasty.

And it has led to big business in branded merchandise.

The Super Bowl marketing and merchandising blitz for apparel and novelties starts early and comes from a multitude of angles. As the number of teams in contention narrows, Reebok executives, for example, who have exclusive rights to all locker room product and headgear for the NFL, take aggressive merchandising steps for successful teams and hot players.

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