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NFL Marketing Makes a Gender Play with Women's Fashion

Posted by Dale Buss on September 22, 2011 04:02 PM

Actually, the National Football League has been focusing on the female market for its licensed goods for at least a decade.

The league has placed a new emphasis on selling team and athlete merchandise for women via an amped-up marketing campaign this season. One noteworthy new ad shows a 30-ish guy scoring big points with women in his life by bestowing such gifts upon them.

Check out the league's new digital catalog at nfl.com/women, which points to the NFL shop for a staggering array of branded items for women, from $13 up to $3,500 (for a jeweled clutch).

On the charitable front, the league is continuing its annual tie-in for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, including an auction on pink-colored NFL merchandise.

"Ten years ago, our motto was 'Shrink it and pink it,'" says Tracey Bleczinski, NFL consumer products vice president, to USA Today. "This year we have as many products, if not more, for women as for men."

Everything else with the NFL is up these days. TV ratings keep going through the roof. The season's opening day is becoming nearly as hyped as the playoffs. And passing yardage — which provides a lot of the viewing excitement for NFL pans — also is ballooning, highlighting the quarterbacks who also serve as the game's biggest marketing icons.

So why not sell more stuff to women? After all, the NFL's 79 million female fans make up 44% of its base, the league says. And the women's licensed-goods business has grown by a factor of 21 in the last 10 years.

So this year, in addition to an expanded line of apparel and accessories made just for female fans, the NFL has introduced a "homegating" initiative designed to help women throw football-themed game-watching parties. Think of it as tailgating-meets-Tupperware parties; and who could resist a Buffalo Bills snack tray?

The NFL is supporting the effort with, for example, a website that offers Game Day party-planning tips and recipes and a recipe contest, whose winner will receive a big flat-screen TV and other goodies, including $1,000 to spend on all that new merchandise at NFLShop.com. (Even former NFL stars are getting into the game, by the way, with former New York Giants linebacker Carl Banks now tackling women's fashion with his just-launched apparel collection.)

Of course, there are still a lot of men watching the NFL, and the traditional lineup of brand marketers — including car companies, lawn-equipment manufacturers, brewers, snack producers and the like — are a heavy presence during and around the games. For example, GMC, the "official vehicle" of the NFL, has launched a road show called the "GMC Monday Night Football Tour" that targets important game markets the weekend before games. It also has a cause-related element with the United Way.

With marketing to both genders covered this year like never before, it's possible that the NFL could become even more popular.

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