One of the lasting memories of the London 2012 Olympics is hard to overlook: the measurable impact of women on the Games. More women competed than ever before, more women won medals and, Michael Phelps not withstanding, women garnered more of the media attention. In addition, it seems Procter & Gamble, Visa, and other brand marketers fell all over themselves trying to tie their brands to the success of female athletes.
But now it's football season in the U.S. and, surprisingly, the focus remains on — you guessed it — women. The National Football League, never one to miss a brand marketing opportunity, is kicking off a campaign called "It's My Team." The target audience for a merchandising push that started last September is 85 million female football fans — almost half of the NFL's fan base. "We realized that while we had terrific products for women, we needed to build awareness," said Tracey Bleczinski, VP of consumer products, in an interview with Marketing Daily. "We have gone after it in a much more significant way and the response from our female fan base has been tremendous."
The multimedia campaign will emphasize what has become a burgeoning business for the NFL and every other sports league: team-branded merchandise. NFL team identities, including logos and team colors, are featured on authentic apparel that mimics helmets and jerseys worn by professional players. But the new women's line of apparel goes far beyond the traditional team items. This year, it includes team logos and colors on capris, hoodies, jackets, shorts, sports bras, tank tops, and t-shirts. According to Bleczinski, "If you are a football fan, you aren't just a fan on game day." That's why the NFL will be pitching its wearable wares not just in Sports Illustrated, but also in Seventeen, Vogue, and Women's Health magazines.
Brands participating in the program as apparel licensees include '47 Brand, 5th & Ocean, G-III, VF Licensed Sports Group, and Nike, which will unveil its NFL Women's Nike Fan Gear Apparel line during the campaign. Shoes, watches, and accessories will be offered by brands including Cuce Shoes, Game Time, Little Earth, LogoArt and Old Pro Leather Goods.
The centerpiece of "It's My Time," though, will be the twenty-two high profile women who will participate in the campaign, including Serena Williams, Melania Trump, and Condoleezza Rice, who is seen sporting the Cleveland Brown colors.
Suzanne Johnson, wife of New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, obviously has a stake in meshing football and fashion, but she says they naturally go hand-in-hand. "The female fan looks not only at the game, but the whole stadium experience," says Johnson. "I have girlfriends that come with me to games on a weekly basis, and they'll ask, 'What are you wearing?' "
As for dating, well, football fashion just might score a touchdown there, too. Says Johnson, "I always tell single girls, you're more approachable if you're wearing your Jets clothes."