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NFL Calls Turkey Day Blitz for Classics Line

Thanksgiving Day football this year will have the most overt merchandising effort turkey-stuffed NFL fans have ever witnessed, including a DRTV spot with a highly unusual twist.

NFL Shop, the National Football League's direct marketing arm, is using the games to push a new apparel line designed by Reebok International Ltd. dubbed NFL Gridiron Classics. The NFL struck a 10-year deal with Reebok. NFL Shop is set to debut the line Sunday and build brand awareness for itself with two 30-second television spots during the games.

As part of the Thanksgiving Day merchandising effort, players will wear uniforms from their glory years. Also, sideline personnel during the games will wear the new Gridiron Classics apparel, which includes crew neck sweat shirts, leather and wool jackets and caps.

“The sidelines are basically our runway,” said Bob O'Keefe, senior director of database marketing at NFL Shop. “The fashion designers have New York and Paris. We've got the sidelines. And our models are the coaches.”

The NFL also has created a Gridiron Classics logo to be displayed on the fields during both games.

During the first half of the Detroit Lions' game against the Green Bay Packers, NFL Films will shoot footage of Lions head coach Marty Mornhinweg in action wearing a Gridiron Classics fleece. NFL Films will then package the footage into a 30-second DRTV commercial to be shown during the second half.

“The 30-second unit isn't historically an effective unit for direct response TV,” O'Keefe said. “That's why the bulk of the inventory is to build awareness and generate catalog requests.”

Tie it to an event, however, and the 30-second spot begins to perform, he said. For example, NFL Shop successfully used a 30-second spot to sell Baltimore Ravens gear immediately after they beat the New York Giants in last season's Super Bowl.

“The power of the event overcomes the traditional limitations you have with a 30-second unit,” he said, declining to quantify the Ravens-related effort. “What we're trying to do here is take a lot of ideas we've been playing around with and execute them in a single spot. It's going to be a contextual sell.”

About 20 million people are expected to watch each game. The commercial will include NFL Shop's toll-free number, 877/NFL-SHOP, and its URL, NFLShop.com.

NFL Shop chose Detroit because of the Silverdome.

“It's climate-controlled, so you don't have to worry about rain and things like that,” O'Keefe said.

The Mornhinweg spot will urge viewers to make a purchase or request a catalog of their favorite team's merchandise.

NFL Shop's catalog request program is unusually aggressive, O'Keefe said, claiming that NFL Shop responds to catalog requests within 24 hours and that it results in a more than 2 percent conversion-to-sale rate.

“If we can find out what someone's favorite team is and mail them a team catalog, we double response rates,” he said, noting that 75 percent of NFL Shop's customers live outside their favorite team's market.

Also, for the first three-quarters of the year, NFL Shop's customers are 75 percent male. During the holidays, the ratio shifts to 50-50.

The 3-year-old NFL Shop will mail catalogs, which account for 30 percent of NFL Shop's sales, to 8 million fans of all the teams this year. The venture also has kiosks in all Champs and Footlocker stores, accounting for 10 percent of sales. DRTV and the Web site each also account for 30 percent of sales, O'Keefe said. NFL Shop is on the Home Shopping Network from 8 to 9 p.m. just before Monday Night Football every week. As part of the Gridiron Classics push, HSN will promote NFL Shop for six hours on Thanksgiving Day.

NFL Shop also prospects by mailing to Sports Illustrated subscribers who responded to NFL-related premiums, by renting lists of subscribers to niche sports publications and by mailing to its own NFL Sunday Ticket satellite service subscribers.

“They tend to be displaced fans, which is why they get Sunday Ticket,” O'Keefe said.

NFL Shop also has access to MBNA Visa cardholders who carry credit cards with team logos on them.

The Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions play two other NFL teams every year on Thanksgiving. This year, the Cowboys host the Denver Broncos.

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