Sports merchandising is billion dollar industry

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 18, 2001

Sports Columnist

If you were asked to guess what teams merchandising sales was the leader in sports what team would you choose?

A recent article in USA Today said it’s the Dallas Cowboys.

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This means that more people nationwide and throughout the world wear Cowboys’ jerseys, caps and T-shirts, then any other teams in sports.

Yes, the Cowboys, a team that finished 5-11 and hasn’t won a playoff game since 1996 has the most popular apparel in sports. I personally like the Cowboys’ uniforms, but I would not have guessed right if someone had asked me that in a trivia contest.

In fact, it was the second year in a row that the Cowboys have been the NFL’s hottest selling team. People that keep up with this kind of thing would certainly have picked the Cowboys because it marked the 12th time in 22 years that Dallas has been tops in football merchandise.

I suppose that’s why they call the Cowboys "America’s Team." They sure have the benefit of tradition and national fan popularity.

The NFL, which ranks first nationally in sports merchandising, is seventh rated in global merchandising among all licensed brands.

The number two NFL team in 2000 were the Tennessee Titans followed by the Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Baltimore Ravens. The top selling football jersey was Eddie George’s of the Titans. The second most popular is worn by Vikings’ quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Marshall Faulk of St. Louis was third, followed by Keyshawn Johnson of Tampa Bay, Randy Moss of Minnesota, Donovan McNabb of the Eagles, Charles Woodson of the Raiders, Indianapolis’s Peyton Manning, Steve McNair of Tennessee and Brett Farve of Green Bay.

I guess you could say those are the most popular players in the NFL in order. I don’t think they got there because the fans like the color of the jerseys.

Remember how popular the Chicago Bulls products were back when Michael Jordan played? I haven’t seen any Bulls stuff lately on anybody. I think you’ve got to win championships in basketball or have a superstar like Jordan to sell products around the world in that sport. The LA Lakers are tops now in that sport. They say Michigan is the top seller of merchandising in college football. You see that navy and gold jersey everywhere you go. Florida State is another high profile team when it comes to merchandising as well as North Carolina, Notre Dame and Duke.

Just look around and see what the kids are wearing. You see a lots of Alabama and Auburn caps around here of course, but you’ll also see FSU, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and believe it or not, the Oregon State Beavers.

Sports merchandising is big business!

How about auto racing. As you ride down the road, see how many cars you can see with a big number three sticker on them. That’s because Dale Earnhardt and NASCAR racing is so popular, especially in the south. I’d say NASCAR is right up there with the NFL in merchandising.

Major League Baseball will always be the leader when it comes to caps. My guess is that the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, L.A. Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians lead that category. My favorite hat is the Cleveland one with the red and blue and the smiling indian logo. Hats that are quickly gaining on the leaders are the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Houston Astros. All you’ve got to do around here is go over to a recreation league ball game to see your favorite uniforms.

Who do you think had the most popular jersey ever worn? Was it No. 7, Mickey Mantle, No. 3, Babe Ruth, No. 23, Michael Jordan, No.

9, Ted Williams, No. 12, Joe Namath, No. 32, Jim Brown, No. 16, Joe Montana or No. 44, Reggie Jackson?

Your guess is as good as mine.

I’ll tell you this. The Nike emblem on the shirt and caps of Tiger Woods is making a lot of headway in the merchandising world. Everybody recognizes Tiger and his Nike sponsorship. You see a golden bear on a shirt and you know it’s a Jack Nickalus brand just like if you see the polo player representing Ralph Lauren. It’s all merchandising and it’s a billion dollar industry.

See you next week!