Much Like Their Television Ratings, NFL Merchandise Sales Plummet to New Lows

AP Mark Lennihan
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

The NFL has already received their fair share of bad news this holiday season. First, the league finds out that all three Thanksgiving games saw double-digit drops in viewership from the previous year.

Now, along with that lump of coal, we learn that the NFL’s merchandise sales have crashed as well.

According to the Sports Business Journal, NFL merchandise sales have fallen by 20 percent or more, since the 2009 recession. While the time span of eight years allows a myriad of different explanations for the drop in sales. Awful Announcing writes that, “some licensees feel it has to do with the national anthem protests.”

According to one licensee, and veteran, the drop in sales is an alarming reality with many possible explanations.

Bill Skinner of Team ProMark saidMy NFL business has been struggling. As a veteran, I’m bothered by the national anthem protests, so I’ve watched much less NFL.”

Though, he said, “I’d be crazy to blame it on one thing: Brick-and-mortar retail is a mess, and the third parties that used to sell our products online have been largely eliminated by the league. It makes you nervous; for most of the guys here, the NFL is their most important license.”

While the anthem protests may not suffice as a complete and total explanation for the drop in sales, it is interesting how the protest issue is normally the first thing fans, and in this case, retailers, bring up when it comes to trying to explain the loss of interest in the NFL.

Awful Announcing writes, “One licensee did cite the oversaturation of games and lower TV ratings as a contributing factor. But perhaps it’s a combination of factors, and not just anthem protests and lower ratings. The NFL has taken hits from news about concussions, injuries to marquee players like Aaron Rodgers, the retirement of long-time merchandising stalwarts like Peyton Manning and Troy Polamalu, and non-traditional windows on Sunday mornings and Thursday nights.

“Holiday sales will be a litmus test for the NFL, but some licensees are worried that the league isn’t doing more to help their partners during what is the most important time for retail.”

The last point made here, is the real point: What is the NFL doing to help the people who help them? Regardless of the specific cause of the NFL’s decline (as if their were only one reason) the larger more disturbing factor is that the league seems completely disinterested in doing anything about it.

To the point where they’ve consumed themselves with trying to push through Commissioner Goodell’s undeserved contract extension before Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones has an opportunity to thwart it at the mid-December meetings.

Why?

Roger Goodell has presided over historic collapses in ratings, in-game attendance, and now, significant drops in merchandise sales. Why should he, or anyone with that resume, get a contract extension?

The anthem protests may not be the sole reason for the fan rebellion against the NFL, but they are the biggest reason why fans have found other things to do with their Sundays. Presumably, a lot of those same people would have stuffed their stockings with NFL gear this year had the league decided to care more about football than social justice activism.

Just because there might be more than one thing causing the league’s downfall, doesn’t mean you don’t do anything to fix the problem. Solving the anthem issue in a way that respects the flag, would go a long way toward addressing all the other problems the league faces.

Until that happens, the NFL can expect more coal in their stocking.

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