Notre Dame football’s No. 1 ranking is likely to boost its team apparel and merchandise sales well into its championship game appearance Jan. 7.
And the hysteria surrounding the Indiana University men's basketball team's preseason No. 1 ranking may help sports apparel retailers' coffers.
But it’s not uncommon that merchandise sales fluctuate with the team’s performance on the field or the court.
Indiana University Northwest marketing professor Subir Bandyopadhyay said it is well-known that merchandising sales fluctuate with the school’s performance on the field or court.
“Several schools, including the Ohio State Buckeyes, have seen this happen in the recent past,” he said. “Interestingly, this correlation is not that distinct for professional sports teams. I still recall that the Anaheim Mighty Ducks of the NHL did not perform too well in the '90s but out-merchandised many teams that performed much better. This goes to show what a strong marketing company like Disney (the Ducks owner) can do with merchandising.”
Bandyopadhyay said athletics merchandising sales is not strongly seasonal. At least, the seasonality does not coincide with the Christmas season.
“The closest is perhaps the NCAA basketball season,” he said. “Basketball merchandise of schools may get more boost than any other sports during the holidays. I think IU basketball’s pre-season top ranking will bode well this holiday season for its merchandising sales."
Bandyopadhyay said like any other popular gift items, retailers should maintain a healthy inventory of the popular sports items.
“It is a lost opportunity if you can’t make the product available for purchase to an interested customer,” he said.
Tom Palinca, store manager of Magic Sports in Valparaiso, said retail sales definitely go up during the Christmas shopping season and his store has had a lot of requests for Notre Dame apparel.
“We see an increase in people wanting that product,” he said.
Rick Zuniga, store manager of Clark Street Sports in Westfield Southlake mall, said there have been a lot of requests for Notre Dame football merchandise, more so than IU basketball. One item is a “perfection T-shirt” because Notre Dame finished 12-0.
Martin Oleksy, Notre Dame fan and advertising and public relations specialist, said Notre Dame always has been a great brand to put under the Christmas tree.
“And with this 12-0 season, Notre Dame is also ranked No. 1 in gift merchandise,” he said. “A good year for the Irish is a good year for sports retailers.”
Michael Low, Notre Dame director of licensing, said Notre Dame manages its licensed business tightly. The school does not have the number of licensees as many other colleges and universities and limits the number of companies that compete on like products and distribution channels.
While that requires a lot more work on a daily basis, it does limit the “craziness” of a BCS Champions opportunity.
“When a university agrees to play in a BCS game, the university agrees to allow BCS licenses to use their trademark for merchandise sales up to and through the actual game,” he said. “Many of those companies are not our standard licensees, and many require extra tutoring as regards to the proper use of our names and logos.”
Low said sales this year have grown continuously since Notre Dame’s first victory against Navy in Dublin, and with each additional victory, sales continued to improve.
“I am pleased to know that the Notre Dame licensed product sales are No. 1 in the country,” he said. “These sales are occurring all across the country – not just regionally – and reflect the strength and loyalty of the Notre Dame family worldwide.”
To qualify the increased interest in Notre Dame products, Low said in the month of October his office reviewed just about 400 new and unique graphic submissions from their licensees.
“In the month of November that number increased by 120 percent,” he said. It appears that December’s submissions will far exceed those in November.”
Lawrence Eleftheri, store leader for JCPenny at Westfield Southlake, said his store sees strong IU sales year-round and it does well with Notre Dame during the holidays.
“With both universities having success in their athletic programs, Notre Dame in football and IU in basketball, the demand has been even greater,” he said. “Current shoppers include both the fans, who are purchasing for themselves, as well the holiday shopper, who is purchasing to give as a gift. Hoodies, sweatshirts, tees and caps have all been selling very well this season.”