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Sports Business

Super Bowl merchandise sales leap on Manning's popularity

February 29, 2016
KEYWORDS Sports Business

Indianapolis-based merchandising company MainGate Inc. is reporting a record windfall from the Super Bowl earlier this month in San Francisco, a sales boost fueled by the popularity of Peyton Manning and the event's 50th anniversary.

“On average, we had a 30 percent gain hotel-by-hotel,” said MainGate CEO Dave Moroknek.

MainGate managed 12 kiosks, eight in San Francisco hotels and two each in Santa Clara and San Jose, during the week of this year’s Super Bowl. The Carolina Panthers stayed in San Jose and the Denver Broncos stayed in Santa Clara, both of which are about an hour from San Francisco.

“The distance between the locations was a bit of a challenge,” Moroknek said. “We set up one warehouse to service the hotels outside of San Francisco and another to service those in San Francisco.”

The hotels nearer the team’s locations were stocked more heavily with team gear, while the hotels in San Francisco had more generic Super Bowl items, including several popular lines commemorating the 50th anniversary.

None of the challenges of operating a spread-out operation slowed sales—especially when it came to Manning merchandise.

“We sold out every single piece of Peyton Manning merchandise we had,” Moroknek said. “In hindsight, we could have sold a little more, but not much because we loaded up really heavy.”

While merchandise for Carolina quarterback Cam Newtown also sold well, it couldn’t compete with the volume of Manning gear, Moroknek added. No player-themed gear sold as well as Manning, he added.

MainGate’s merchandise sales at this year’s Super Bowl—on a store-by-store basis—even out-scored the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl, which was a big boon, Moroknek said. The Super Bowl was held in the Big Apple for the first time in 2014 and merchandisers were licking their chops due to the market’s massive size.

MainGate has been an official merchandise retail partner of the NFL at every Super Bowl since 2011 in Dallas. New York, Moroknek said, is now the No. 2 biggest Super Bowl the company has worked at in terms of merchandise sales.

“Peyton Manning certainly helped that because everyone was anticipating this would be his last game,” Moroknek said. “The popularity of the 50th anniversary merchandise was also a huge factor.”

In addition to myriad Manning gear, the biggest selling items for MainGate at this year’s Super Bowl were 50th anniversary hats, T-shirts, a black Nike hoodie and women’s gear.

“The women’s pieces were a high-fashion line with glitter and a lot of gold foil printing,” Moroknek explained. “That line sold extremely well.”

The one disappointment, Moroknek said, was the sale of children’s items. So what went wrong?

“We’re still trying to figure that out,” Moroknek said. “Maybe because it was the 50th anniversary people were buying for themselves rather than the kids back home.”

All in all, this year’s Super Bowl will be one of MainGate’s top five pieces of business for a single event in 2016, Moroknek said.

MainGate officials intend to seek a deal to sell merchandise at hotels for the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston. A request for bids for the hotels part of the contract is expected to be release later this spring or summer.

Philadelphia-based Aramark already has won merchandise sales rights for Super Bowl LI in 2017 at NRG Stadium in Houston. Aramark also has the food and beverage rights in Houston.

“We love the hotel business,” Moroknek said of the Super Bowl. “That’s a sweet spot for us. We like having more selling days than just the one they have in the stadium. It’s definitely been profitable for us.”

Still, the stadium sales deal—which MainGate had in 2013 in New Orleans—is massive, and the Indianapolis company intends to pursue it in 2018. It may have an inside track.

MainGate has a contract to sell merchandise in the Minnesota Vikings’ home venue. The 2018 Super Bowl will be held in Minnesota’s new home.

“Hopefully our familiarity with that market,” Moroknek said, “will give us an edge.”

Indianapolis-based Lids—also a merchandise player at recent Super Bowls—was not an official partner of the NFL at this year’s Super Bowl, but did operate a sizable store inside the Macy’s in downtown San Francisco.


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