The first images after a Super Bowl win are always memorable. But one that always stands out is that of the winning players immediately donning their "Super Bowl Champion" shirts and caps, which seem to magically appear on the field -- just as magically as the losing team seems to disappear from view.
If you've ever wondered what happens to all that pre-printed merchandise for the losing team, the good news is that it doesn't get destroyed. For more than two decades, these T-shirts, jerseys, hoodies and caps have been donated to charitable organizations who recycle and reuse the merchandise all over the world. In addition to the NFL, other sports organizations -- including college football and Major League Baseball -- follow a similar practice, so that these items of wearable, durable clothing no longer go to waste in a landfill.
A Loss for the Team: A Win for Charity
In 1996, the NFL began partnering with the humanitarian aid organization World Vision to distribute losing team apparel to persons living in economically-impoverished countries. In 2015, the NFL changed partnerships and joined with Good360, a charitable organization famed for its effectiveness in working with 40,000 charities around the world.
The destination countries change every year according to where need is greatest. For example, in 2009 Super Bowl XLIII gear proclaiming an Arizona Cardinals win was sent to people in El Salvador. When the New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, Colts championship gear was sent to the earthquake victims in Haiti. After the 2015 Super Bowl, Seahawks championship items were distributed in Georgia and Azerbaijan.
The Post-Game Donation Process
The post-game donation process is simple. Immediately after the Super Bowl, Good360 notifies its nonprofit partners to find out what the needs are in individual nations. In the meantime, retailers are required to send back any losing team championship merchandise. These items are all shipped to a US location and stored until there's enough to fill an entire container. When it's full, the container is then shipped overseas to these destination countries.
Guarding the Losing Team Merchandise
Just as someone in ecommerce solutions or ecommerce platforms knows that using bootleg software is illegal, so retailers and digital marketing specialists know that selling losing team championship apparel can get them into trouble, and can even cost them their license to sell NFL merchandise.
The NFL is adamant about protecting teams and their franchises by not releasing these "non-event products" into the public. Because of this, during the game all pre-printed merchandise is kept under lock and key and heavily guarded. A case in point is the fate of the Super Bowl championship caps that are made by manufacturer New Era Caps and distributed on the field immediately after the game.
During Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, staff from New Era Caps brought four gym bags containing pre-made championship caps to the field -- two bags for each team. When the Patriots got a goal-line interception that led them to a final moment victory, several New Era Caps staffers fought their way through the confetti to get caps on the heads of the team's owner, head coach, MVP, quarterback and team VIPS heading for the podium, while another group of staffers quickly whisked away the two bags of Seahawks caps.
When it comes to Super Bowl team-related apparel, the numbers are staggering. In 2017, consumers were predicted to have spent $14.1 billion in Super Bowl LI goods. These figures included purchases of an estimated 21 million pieces of team-related merchandise, including apparel.
While it's hard to see your favorite team lose, even the most diehard fans can take heart in knowing that their redundant pre-printed merchandise items are being worn by thousands of people grateful for any type of clothing, no matter who won the game.