The world’s largest sporting-goods provider stuck mainly to the 92-year-old NFL’s traditional look as it begins a five-year licensing deal that may add $500 million in annual revenue, according to Chris Svezia, an analyst for Susquehanna Financial Group in New York.
Nike took over the NFL clothing license on April 1 after Adidas AG (ADS)’s Reebok unit had it for more than a decade. The switch to Nike has generated more interest in NFL apparel from fans, and has retailers raising sales expectations as the maker of Air Jordan basketball shoes puts more marketing behind the license than Reebok, Svezia said yesterday in an interview.
“The bottom line is it’s a freshening of the uniforms that’s going to drive interest,” he said. While the NFL license won’t have a major effect for a company of Nike’s size, it gives the brand more exposure to a large and passionate group of consumers, he said. Nike generated $23.4 billion in sales in the 12 months through February.
The Super Bowl-champion New York Giants’ mostly red, white and blue uniforms were unchanged as Nike showed its apparel for the NFL’s 32 teams at a studio in Brooklyn made to look like a football field. The New York Jets’ green and white uniforms also will stay the same.
The Seattle Seahawks, owned by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, were the only team that asked for a redesign, according to Erin Patterson, a Nike spokeswoman. The team will wear deep blue, and have silver numbers and wide silver shoulder stripes, both with lime-green piping. The pants also will have a stripe of stylized wings down the side of the leg.
The Denver Broncos will switch to an orange jersey from navy. Nike expects more teams to revamp their uniforms in the coming years, said Charlie Denson, president of the Nike brand.
The addition of the NFL license will add to sales in North America, where Nike increased revenue 17 percent in its largest market to $2.15 billion in the quarter ended Feb. 29. The company doesn’t break out sales of football products. Orders for NFL apparel have exceeded the company’s expectations, Denson said.
The uniforms are lighter and have more stretch that will improve a player’s mobility, according to the company.
“The difference is in the feel, and it’s lighter,” said Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, one of 32 players on hand to represent each team and wearing his new uniform for the first time. “I don’t know if it will make me faster, but I hope so.”
Nike was more unconventional with its college uniforms, putting a feather print on the shoulders of University of Oregon’s Ducks and a lizard-skin print on the pants of Texas Christian University’s Horned Frogs.
Nike’s popularity in the college game should immediately translate into NFL sales, according to Brian Swallow, senior vice president of strategy and business development for Fanatics LLC. Fanatics, a Jacksonville, Florida-based company that is the largest retailer of licensed team sports merchandise in the U.S., runs the official online store of the NFL.
“A lot of fans, at least in the college side of our business, have passion for Nike,” Swallow said. “They say they’ll only buy Nike, so the brand itself already commands a large following.”
Reebok had to adjust its buying strategy last year to reflect the final year of its NFL deal, company spokesman Dan Sarro said last week in an e-mailed statement. Swallow said that Reebok’s conservative approach to 2011, the new tailored fit of the Nike jerseys, and their higher prices — Reebok’s base replica cost $85; the Nike equivalent will be $100 — may result in jersey sales doubling this season as opposed to 2011.
“A lot of fans have been holding off on buying a brand that was going to be on the outs, so we’re going to see a very frenetic pace in Nike sales as soon as we roll them out,” he said. “When you blend all the Nike products together, I think we would be disappointed with anything less than a 30 to 40 percent increase in overall sales.”
Nike rose less than 1 percent to $109.87 at the close of New York trading.