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Stocking For Success: Merchandisers Prepare For Super Bowl Win

While football fans are eagerly watching the Super Bowl, stores and manufacturers will be likewise poised for the final outcome to set in motion a landslide of merchandise to cater to the winners.

In Seattle, companies are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that people can buy Seahawks Super Bowl championship gear the very next day.

Jim Pisani is president of VF Licensed Sports Group, which makes clothing under the Majestic brand. His company has pre-positioned thousands of blank shirts, jackets and hoodies at printing facilities all over the country. “We have them near Denver in case Denver wins and we have them near Seattle in case Seattle wins, so as soon as the final play, we are able to print,” he said.

[asset-images[{"caption": "A customer peruses Seahawks NFC Championship merchandise at the Northgate Sports Authority. If Seattle wins the Super Bowl, the store will be able to roll out championship gear before all the confetti settles. ", "fid": "8613", "style": "card_280", "uri": "public://201401/IMG_5500.JPG", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Deb Wang"}]]The company’s printing facility in Tampa, Florida, which is one of the largest in the country, will be working around the clock, according to Pisani. The company has also contracted with independent print shops around Seattle, which will be able to supply local fans by 6 a.m. the next day, he said.

But that isn’t early enough for everyone: Some companies will even purchase gear that proclaims the Seahawks the champions of Super Bowl XLVIII before the game even begins.

That’s the case at Sports Authority in Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood. “We do have a large amount of stuff that we pre-buy,” said Matt Anderson, a district manager for the company. “There’s no doubt we’re winning, so we’ll have stuff after the game.”

Customers can watch the game on the store’s big screen TVs. If the Seahawks win, the gear will come out of a locked room and immediately be put out for sale. Store employees won’t bother putting them on shelves or on hangers; they will be unloaded straight onto tables near the front of the store.

“As soon as the Seahawks get their shirts after they win, you can get them here,” said Brent Vander Mey, a community marketing representative for the company.

Despite their confidence, there’s the question that no Seahawks fans wants to consider: If the Seahawks don’t win, what happens to all of that stuff? “I don’t think we’re going to talk about that because there’s no opportunity: they are going to win,” said Anderson.

It’s a somewhat tricky question. The NFL licenses team merchandise, and the league does not permit any gear that proclaims the wrong winner of a Super Bowl to be out on the market. In previous years, misprinted gear was simply destroyed.

But that is not the case today. The hats and shirts will survive, but will likely end up far, far away — in places like Bosnia, Romania, Armenia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Uganda, Zambia, Burundi — with the help of humanitarian groups like Federal Way-based World Vision.

[asset-images[{"caption": "After the New England Patriots lost Super Bowl XLII, World Vision distributed the unusable shirts to schools in Nicaragua. ", "fid": "8605", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201401/World_Vision_1_0.JPG", "attribution": "Credit Courtesy of World Vision"}]]

After the Super Bowl, World Vision will offer to gather all the gear that proclaims the wrong Super Bowl winner. They will ship it overseas, to poor countries where World Vision works. Much of the gear will go to children.

Jim Fisherkeller, senior director of corporate engagement at World Vision, said it’s often the first brand new clothing they’ve ever received. “They are excited about that; they generally have no knowledge of the teams involved or even the leagues involved or the sport involved. They are just happy to get a new shirt with a tag on it so they know it’s brand new,” Fisherkeller said.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Nathan White, of Just Sports in Alderwood Mall, checks on boxes of Seahawks merchandise. The store has been running at full steam to keep the shelves stocked leading up to the Super Bowl.", "fid": "8604", "style": "card_280", "uri": "public://201401/IMG_5473.JPG", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Deb Wang"}]]The amount varies, but it’s typically thousands of items that would have been worth hundreds of thousands of dollars if the team had won. Last year, World Vision shipped about $800,000 worth of gear overseas.

Some years it may be much more than that. In 2008, after an undefeated season, the New England Patriots were heavily favored to win Super Bowl XLII. Retailers pre-printed huge numbers of championship T-shirts and hats with the Patriots logo and the words “19-0 Perfect Season.” World Vision ended up shipping much of that gear to schools in Nicaragua.

Sports Authority is one of the retailers that takes part in the World Vision program. The company is actually headquartered near Denver, so it’s likely to have a good supply of Broncos gear as well that’s printed up for the Super Bowl.

From Vander Mey’s perspective in Seattle, that’s just fine. “There’ll be a lot of Broncos T-shirts in third world countries, let’s just leave it at that,” he said.

Already, Seahawks gear has been flying off the shelves in anticipation of Super Bowl Sunday. “You name it, if it has a Seahawks logo, it’s disappearing as fast as we can get it in,” said Nathan White, district manager of Just Sports, which has a location at Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood, Wash.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Tom McMaster, of Just Sports in Alderwood Mall, hangs more \"12th Man\" uniforms. It's been a particularly popular item since the Seahawks secured a Super Bowl slot.", "fid": "8603", "style": "card_280", "uri": "public://201401/IMG_5437.JPG", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Deb Wang"}]]Over the past week, he’s been busy unpacking dozens of boxes of Seahawks gear and operating on very little sleep. “I mean, yesterday, before we could even open the boxes, we were giving people shirts before it was even tagged and processed,” White said. “I mean, it’s been absolutely insane.”

This run on gear may help ease the sting for any business that ends up with a lot of losing gear on its hands. But even if that’s the case, it’s part of the cost of doing business.

According to the NFL, sales of licensed merchandise from the Super Bowl alone are expected to total more than $150 million.

Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.

Year started with KUOW: 2005