Since the 2009-09 recession, the NFL’s licensing partners have experienced lower sales. And according to Sports Business Journal, NFL merchandise sales are down by as much as 20% or more. Now what could be the cause of lower sales? There’s no one reason, but some licensees feel it has to do with the national anthem protests.

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.

“My NFL business has been struggling,” said Bill Skinner of Team ProMark, which added small “Ambassador Flags” in MLB, NFL and colleges to the plethora of licensed auto flags on the market. “As a veteran, I’m bothered by the national anthem protests, so I’ve watched much less NFL.” Still, 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.”

One licensee is wondering if viewers are just watching their favorite teams and not staying to watch the other games.

Whether it’s the ratings or other factors, licensees are worried about lower sales and making less money than in past years. The issue could be as simple as the NFL simply coming down from its peak, but if the slide doesn’t end, licensees will have some tough decisions in their future.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

  • chaz

    Team Jerseys are like microwave ovens. Once you buy one, you probably don’t need a new one for about 10 years.

  • jollyjoker1

    only 20%. I am shocked its not 50-60%. They must have some good deals .
    I cut my nfl down by 90% but the NFL doesn’t think my concerns matter – (taking a knee during our only uniting conversation in this country) but what I do I know. Apparently the rest of America likes politics and liberal race baiting during football.
    If I was a licensee – I would get out while I could.

    • innocentuntilproven

      Its the sports bars, restaurants, and NFL affiliate partners, that keep the numbers up. Remember the housing inflation fiasco? I have a feeling its business as usual in hopes that the market comes back. Keep shoving out the numbers as if nothing has happened.

      The litmus test, will be on how many non corporation or business entities renew their PSL’s.

      • liz4321

        In some markets, they have slashed ticket prices to draw more attendance. In one market, recently, it was reported $100. tickets were going for $10. They are trying hard to pretend there is no problem and they care less about the drop in profit, then the appearance that people are not going to games.

        • StoJa

          Those numbers are disingenious without context. What is the market? What are the records? It happens every year that a 2-3 win slashes prices to get people to come to games. This is nothing new. It would be NEWS if this was happening in Pittsburgh, New England, or Minnesota.

          • liz4321

            Disingenious, means I’m trying to pull the wool over your eyes. I’m not. I read articles, I’m not studying them and remembering all the details. So which team lowered their tickets to that price? I can’t go back and find where I read that. I’m a Patriots fan, so I would not know anything about discounted tickets for the pat 15 years. But $10 Tickets? You’re sure that the NFL routinely sells tickets at this low a price when teams are underperforming?

          • Jt Travers

            Head up your arse much?

          • innocentuntilproven

            So you honestly believe, 3 teams carry the league for revenue? Don’t you find it slightly odd that NFL merchandise sales, have not been reported? Logged on their website to find 25% off just about every team jersey. It will come down more.

            The big factor will be next year PSL’s and season ticket sales. We shall see how that goes. I’m betting those ticket prices won’t go up.

          • Deplorable_Timothy

            Pittsburgh/Jacksonville Divisional playoff game tickets are $99 (below face value) on StubHub, 4 days before the home game. That IS news!

  • liz4321

    No sports merchandise under my Christmas tree this year. 🙂

    And no Nike, No Bose speakers, no Serius radio subscriptions, no Duracell batteries, no tickets through Ticketmaster, no football game tickets, or NBA tickets, No Microsoft products, and nothing I purchase will be made on a Visa card or shipped by FedEx.

    • StoJa

      I hope your kids like pet rocks you get them from the backyard this year. Christmas sounds AWESOME at your house.

      • innocentuntilproven

        I doubt you have children. With all the hate in your heart, and literally badmouthing everything you dont agree with, I hope you never do. As there is a plethora of other places to purchase merchandise and Christmas gifts, than the companies he has chosen not to do business with.

        He isnt the only one. The majority of people have spoken with their wallets. TV ratings arent down to the numbers that are warranted, due to bars and restaurants across the country, that still put it on TV. If they did the same, numbers would be down ever more dramatically.

        Merchandise sales will be the baseline in which owners will use in, but will try to hide at all cost, when the next collective bargaining comes around.

        • StoJa

          The MAJORITY of people? Settle down, chicken little. Actually the MAJORITY of people are still going to games and watching them. A 10-20% decline is not the “majority” of anything.

          • jollyjoker1

            100% agree StoJA. Most don’t care. Most however, will not buy merchandise at the risk offending others. Thats the tradeoff.

          • innocentuntilproven

            20% decline? Those are only viewing numbers on the actual Television.
            I can make a safe bet, the majority of those numbers are high due to sports bars, restaurants, and NFL affiliates.

            Ticket sales are only as high as they are now due to tickets already sold. However, people cant give their season tickets away.

            Just type in google,” Empty seats NFL stadiums”. Apparently, you do not go to the stadium. I can post some pictures of mine if you would like. They are half full, if that.

            If you think the over inflation of housing prices that crashed the economy in 2008 was bad, wait until a few years from now, when they come out with the movie on how the NFL paid sponsors off and Neilsen ratings in order to make it appear as if they arent burdened by the lack of middle class paying for the overpaid spoiled children of tomorrow.

            Oh and nice childish name calling. I thought I was speaking in a mature forum. I’m wrong sometimes.

      • liz4321

        Really? We have a great Christmas every year, and this year won’t be any different. There are plenty of other companies to do business with.

      • Jt Travers


    • Joe Yeti

      There are MUCH more rewarding ways to spend time with your family other than NFL.

    • Sunny

      OK snowflake, calm down.

      • liz4321

        Calm down? You sure you are responding to my comment?

      • Jt Travers

        Snow flake??? Do you even know what that means??? Fn dumbarse

    • Jt Travers

      As i liz. Well said……

  • sportsfan365

    There’s only about three guys playing worth spit. Everybody else is nothing special.

  • derrick anderson

    NFL is just a garbage product. Regardless of the whole kneeling things, the game is just boring to watch. Every big play there is a flag, so many freaking commercials, I’m just over it.

    NBA is way better and more fun to watch, less time consuming and has more parity.

    • innocentuntilproven

      Its not regardless of the whole kneeling thing. That is the majority of the whole issue, no matter how people try to point in other directions.

      • derrick anderson

        No I agree that the kneeling is obviously an issue, I just meant regardless as in my opinion, even without the kneeling fiasco, the whole ‘show’ is just a huge time suck and not very entertaining.

    • noonan18

      I was with you all the way up until you said the NBA is better, more fun to watch and has more parity. Unless your definition of those things is different than mine.

  • Jopoppa

    My NFL patronage and habits have changed drastically for a number of reasons. Between Goodell’s mishandling of pretty much everything, his asinine desired contract, the greed and arrogance of the owners and the plush living players who care more about their personal stats and/or brand than they do “W’s”, many games are either one sided or the quality of play is terrible even as every concession has been made to accommodate big offensive numbers. Lost in all of this are the fans who reside at the very bottom of that food chain and the NFL has always taken our patronage for granted so it’s nice for US to finally have THEIR attention.

    I also find the college football experience so much more compelling. No, I’m not naive and do realize that NCAA football also a huge business. I just find the games to be played with more passion and effort as opposed to an NFL player who goes all out especially when he’s in a contract year. I attended the Michigan OSU game over the weekend and a Lion game a few weeks back. In my opinion even the in stadium NCAA experience far exceeds attending NFL games.

    What could be done to bring me back so to speak? Honestly I don’t know and currently couldn’t care less. The NFL has gotten itself into this position so it’s on them as far as I’m concerned to figure out how to fix it. Until that day comes I’ll be enjoying my football Saturdays!

  • Sunny

    The racist, anti American anthem protests are what will kill the NFL. Looking for other excuses is entertaining but are complete denials of the fact. Good Riddance to the NFL.

  • Tyler Peterson

    I will survive without the NFL. Spoiled millionaire players are too arrogant, thinking that can do anything without any consequences.

  • Parts

    The prices are ridiculous for the merch. Jerseys in particular, and since Nike took over the contract, the materials and the fit are complete crap. I quit buying merch because the price keeps rising, and really, how many hats/jerseys/t shirts/sweatshirts etc do I need to rep my team? I just don’t need to buy new ones every Season.

  • pabear

    What I think is killing the sport is both the number of parents getting smart about injuries and not putting their kids into football and the attitude of most of the players – they are really unlikeable. You know what they say – the NFL means “not for long”.

  • Borgus

    It’s just another TV show.
    You watch it or you don’t.
    Maybe you’ll watch the next one. Or not.
    End of.

  • Jt Travers

    These ass wipes would never admit it is the protests. I as an ex fan know a whole hell of a lot better. If you idiots need an analyst. I will lend my services.

  • CrRhino

    There still is an NFL? I thought they folded last year?