NFL Aims to Bolster Global Sales With H&M Collaboration

Football means soccer to millions of Europeans, but the National Football League will try to boost its branding globally through a new apparel and accessories deal with H&M.

Brokered by IMG, the agreement will include the launch of men’s, women’s and children’s NFL-branded apparel and accessories. The merchandise will be sold in more than 20 countries including the U.K., China, Japan, Colombia, Germany, India, Mexico, South Korea and in the Middle East. The first installment, launching today, will feature men’s jackets, tops and loungewear. Overseas fans and shoppers have more than three weeks to get any team favorite gear for the Super Bowl LIV, which will be held Feb. 2 in Miami.

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An Oakland Raiders hoodie, New England Patriots jogger pants, a snap-front NFL jacket, and a New York Giants T-shirt are among the styles that are now being sold. Given the popularity of genderless fashion and the unisex appeal of the silhouettes that are offered, the fact that the first capsule collection is technically men’s wear may be a nonissue. The NFL and H&M are developing women’s, children’s and accessories for next season. Retailing between $15 and $30, H&M’s NFL assortment is more affordable than some other branded NFL apparel such as Nike’s $99 Dallas Cowboys 2019 Salute to Service Sideline Therma Hoodie or New Era’s $31 San Francisco 49ers 2019 NFC West Division Champions baseball hat.

The deal with H&M provides the NFL with “a fantastic opportunity to extend our brand across international markets,” according to Akash Jain, the NFL’s vice president of international commercial development, who cited Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the U.K., Germany and China as key markets for growth. He declined to comment on the first-year projected wholesale volume. The league has seen its number of fans, live-game viewership, social media audience, traffic to its e-commerce sites and engagement with other digital products “trending, really rocketing up,” Jain said.

The H&M alliance will run through the NFL’s 2020 season and targets an age bracket “from 12 on up who is interested in expressing their fandom through fashion-conscious products,” according to Jain.

This expansion plan is in line with the NFL’s aim to build its global audience. The NFL recently pegged its average TV viewership at 16.5 million per game — an uptick compared to last year’s tally of 15.8 million. Last fall, the NFL hosted four games in London — two at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and two at Wembley Stadium. The league also held one between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers in Mexico City at Estadio Azteca.

One clear indicator of the NFL’s worldwide appeal is the fact that the Super Bowl is watched in more than 180 countries and in nearly 25 languages. Last year’s showdown between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams attracted 98.2 million viewers in the U.S. alone.

Last year Nike extended its deal with the NFL for eight years, with the athletic giant committed to suiting up all 32 teams with game-day uniforms and sideline apparel. Nike also sells NFL merchandise to consumers, as do such retailers and e-tailers as Fanatics, Dick’s Sporting Goods and J.C. Penney, among others. As for whether the NFL saw this as an opportunity to build its base, given the trouble that the National Basketball Association has had in China (following last fall’s backlash after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s pro-democracy tweet), Jain said, “We didn’t look at it in the context of any other league. We, as I said, looked at it as an opportunity for the NFL to continue to extend our brand and engage with a young fashion-conscious consumer.”

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