Direct Marketers Embark on Super Bowl Merchandise Blitz

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Direct marketers are using every possible medium, from mail-order catalogs to direct response television, to peddle Super Bowl XXXV merchandise for this year's big game.


The National Football League's NFL Shop, its direct retailing division, is looking to make some extra green on the New York Giants-Baltimore Ravens match-up through a multichannel direct marketing program. The campaign consists of e-mail and voice-cast promotions, special pre- and post-Super Bowl catalogs and a DRTV campaign.


"We have always seen value in the multichannel approach," said Bob O'Keefe, senior director of publishing and direct marketing at the NFL.


On Jan. 29, the day after the game, NFL Shop will deliver recorded phone and e-mail messages to 200,000 NFL Shop customers thanking fans for their support and promoting the Official Super Bowl XXXV Championship hat, T-shirt and video. Fans will be directed to a toll-free number and the NFL Web site, www.nfl.com. Kerry Collins, the Giants' quarterback, or Shannon Sharpe, the Ravens' tight end, will deliver the messages, depending on the game's winner.


Earlier this month, NFL Shop mailed more than 1 million 40-page postseason catalogs to its customers featuring Super Bowl merchandise and team items. The marketer will send an undetermined number of catalogs two weeks after the game featuring merchandise related to the winning team. NFL Shop mailed 8 million monthly catalogs over the course of 2000.


NFL Shop plans to sell winning-team merchandise during a three-hour program that airs on the Home Shopping Network after the game. Also, it will run 30- and 60-second advertisements selling winning-team merchandise on the USA Network and the Sci-Fi Channel for the two weeks after the Super Bowl. Both the long-form and short-form ads will direct consumers to a toll-free number and the Web site.


NFL Shop has a customer database of 8 million fans. Customers are gathered via the opt-in e-mail newsletters sent to visitors of NFL.com and customers of NFL Shop; catalog kiosks at sporting goods retail locations, including Foot Locker and Champs Sporting Goods; customer registration via DRTV offers; event registration such as All-Pro Balloting; and subscription lists for NFL Insider, the league's monthly magazine. Customers are asked to provide demographic information and the name of their favorite NFL team.


NFL Shop is looking to focus its direct marketing efforts primarily on fans who do not live near their favorite team and fans who do not have access to sports apparel retail centers.


"The first thing we look for is fans that do not live in the cities of their favorite teams," O'Keefe said. "When the Giants or Ravens win the Super Bowl, local retail centers will stock their shelves with team merchandise. Fans outside of those locations will not have access."


NFL Shop, which projects $40 million in sales for the year, expects to bring in $5 million during the two-week window between the end of the playoffs and the Super Bowl, O'Keefe said.


BalfourSports, manufacturer of sports collectibles, rings and trophies, is using short-form DRTV to capitalize on the game. Last weekend, the company launched a 60-second ad for the official Super Bowl XXXV flip coin.


The company will sell 10,000 silver- and gold-plated commemorative coins. The infomercial features last year's Super Bowl footage, a display of the Super Bowl trophy and the coin. Consumers are directed to a toll-free number to purchase the $59.99 coin. Customer representatives will upsell a variety of commemorative winner's coins, a commemorative Super Bowl coin and team rings. The company has been marketing similar merchandise for more than 10 years and has historically sold out of the limited items.


The ad is featured on national cable stations and is heavily placed in the New York and Baltimore markets.


"Our strategy is to hit NFL markets," said Jim Humphrey, director of business development at BalfourSports, Austin, TX.


Sirius Products, Los Angeles, is responsible for scripting, production and fulfillment, and Direct Response Media, Wayne, PA, performs all media placement for the campaign.
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