How Do They Print Super Bowl Champion Shirts So Quickly

When it comes to Super Bowl merchandise, the most common question people ask is, “What happens to all those pre-made shirts with the losing team on them?” The answer is, it depends—but you might see “Eagles Super Bowl Champions” (or “Patriots Super Bowl Champions”) gear in places as far flung as Zambia and Armenia next year.

But we’ve got a better question: How about the merchandise that people actually want? How do stores, online sellers, NFL teams, and every other (officially licensed) outlet actually get their hands on Super Bowl merch, and then into the hands of clamoring fans, so quickly?

Keep in mind that the Super Bowl is way more than a football game—it’s big business. Estimated Super Bowl-related consumer spending in the U.S. each year has been steadily rising each season, and is now in the $15 billion range.

While that includes all consumer spending, including game day food, merchandise and apparel is a big chunk of that change. Which means the NFL and its partners need to be ready to meet sky-high demands.

How Do They Print Up All Those Super Bowl Shirts So Fast?

It may seem like the Super Bowl winner shirts appear out of nowhere as soon as the clock hits zero, but it’s actually a process months in the making.

According to a report by Marketplace, a company like Majestic Athletic dedicates an entire team to championship events, and that team starts planning about six months out.

That team will spearhead the creation of “locker room T-shirts” that the winning team can don right away after winning the big game, but these are simply the prototypes for what fans can buy, en masse, starting the next day:

However, Pisani says, most championship T-shirts that you can buy in stores the next day are printed right after the game.

“That’s when we’ll really kick into gear. We’ll have product ready within less than 24 hours, sometimes within two to three hours depending on where the location is,” Pisani says.

In order to do that effectively, manufacturers and retailers around the country (in particular, this year, the major markets of Philadelphia and Boston will be at the ready) pre-position thousands of blank shirts, jackets and hats, so they can be slapped with the winning logos at the earliest possible notice.

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This process can be stressful for manufacturers, who also can’t afford to cut corners and start printing up shirts early in a game that feels like a runaway. Atlanta Falcons fans know this all too well—they were ready to celebrate in their Super Bowl gear by the third quarter of the 2017 game, but the Patriots staged a stunning comeback that would have also broken the hearts of the T-shirt printers if they had tried to get a headstart.

How To Predict the Right Amount Of Inventory

A big business like the NFL invests a lot of money in calculating just how much inventory they need to meet demand. A highly emotional purchase like a Super Bowl T-shirt, typically bought in the heat of the moment after an incredible win, is something that needs to be capitalized on right away. Even a die-hard fan might feel as though they don’t need it if they’re told the shirt is out-of-stock and they should check back later.

On the other hand, nothing kills a business’ bottom line (even one as massive as the NFL’s) like over-ordering inventory. Shirts that languish on the shelves of warehouses rack up high carrying costs and eventually need to be sold for a slimmer profit, if not a loss.


Related Article: HOW NFL TEAMS COULD BENEFIT FROM ASSET MANAGEMENT

For companies that don’t have the kind of logistical firepower as the NFL, they need to use inventory management software that utilizes some kind of tracking technology.

Barcode basics are good to brush up on here. The simple but remarkably effective barcode is the backbone of many an inventory management system, utilized by companies as varied as Amazon and Etsy home businesses.

Attaching barcodes to your inventory, whether its a Super Bowl hat tag, a computer, or a piece of fruit, allows you to glean big data from your sales, analyze trends, predict when you’ll need to re-order, and give customers peace of mind that their purchases are on the way.

After 50+ Super Bowls, the NFL is no doubt prepared for the kind of crush they’ll receive from fans all over the country, from lifelong die-hards to bandwagoners who just started watching the sport the night before. But their product is resilient—it’s hard to imagine that many people turning away from the sport even if their shirt doesn’t arrive on their doorstep within 24 hours. If you’re a small business owner, your window of opportunity to win the hearts of customers is smaller and rife with pitfalls, especially if you don’t have a way of tracking inventory effectively.

It’s Not Just About the “Big Game”

For the NFL and their apparel partners, the first week of February is their Christmas, Black Friday, and every other holiday. Everyone needs to be prepared to work overtime to churn out just enough inventory for the millions of dollars of merchandise that will go out the door in a matter of hours.

Small businesses have similar “hot market” times of year when they know they need to gear up for increased demand, particularly around traditional holidays (or other times depending on the industry). But they (hopefully) sell products other times of the year, as the NFL does, and the needs of the season are informed by what data they can glean from inventory management, asset management, and supply chain management software.

If you don’t use something to track your inventory (as a surprisingly high number of respondents to the latest Wasp Barcode State of Small Business Report admitted), you’re likely paying too much to hold to unsold products, or failing to maximize your various channels by selling out and promising inventory you don’t actually have.

It’s a thin line between success and failure—a game of inches, just like in football—and if big businesses are using barcodes and RFID, among other technologies, to track their sales, you should consider doing the same.

Who Will Win?

If the Eagles win, it’ll be because of a big game by their defense. If the Patriots win, it’ll no doubt be on the back of their seemingly immortal quarterback, Tom Brady.

Due to the high-profile nature of both teams, the NFL will probably be happy either way (much happier than the possible Jacksonville-Minnesota Super Bowl that almost took place). As long as they get their merchandise into the hands of the insatiable sports masses quickly enough, everybody will be a winner.

Except of course for fans of the losing team, who will have to go to Africa or Eastern Europe to get a 2018 Champions shirt with their team on it.

Speaking of which, watch out for fake merchandise (especially pricey tickets), and most of all, enjoy the game!

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Marc Davidson

Marc Davidson

Marc Davidson is a Product Marketing Manager at Wasp Barcode specializing in Inventory Warehouse Management and Supply Chain product lines. He has 6+ years in the industry as a product marketing manager, sales executive and product trainer.