McAfee’s soaring popularity fuels Colts merchandise sales growth

I’ve already argued that the Indianapolis Colts’ Pat McAfee is the most valuable punter and kickoff specialist in the NFL’s American Football Conference this year—and in recent years past.

And by valuable, I don’t just mean he’s the best on the field. Which he is. If he continues on his current path and doesn’t make the Pro Bowl this year, it will be a crime.

He’s also the best kicker at selling merchandise. According to the company that handles the Colts retail sales operations, he’s one of the few and possibly only NFL kickers who moves much merchandise. Oh sure, you can find a few jerseys for the Colts’ 41-year-old place kicker Adam Vinatieri in the stands of Lucas Oil Stadium and perhaps jerseys of a handful of other kickers in stadiums around the league. But no place-kicker or punter comes close to moving the amount of product McAfee does.

“The sales of [McAfee’s] jerseys are beyond unusual,” said Dave Moroknek, president of MainGate Inc., which handles the Colts’ retail sales operations. “It’s unheard of. Some teams—most teams—don’t even carry the jersey of the kicker.”

Sales of McAfee’s No. 1 jersey are behind only Andrew Luck’s No. 12 among Colts players, Moroknek said. Popular veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne’s No. 87 is close to McAfee.

The big surge in sales of McAfee jerseys started last season and has continued this season. Those numbers, Moroknek said, continue skyward faster than one of McAfee’s booming kicks.

Adding to McAfee’s popularity this year is the launch of his show on WTHR-TV Channel 13 along with his ever-growing presence on social media. His jersey sales also saw a spike this year after his memorable on-side kick during a nationally televised Thursday night game at Houston on Oct. 9, Moroknek said.

“There are several factors playing into this phenomenon,” Moroknek said. “First, he’s awesome on the field. He’s got a great personality and great sense of humor. He’s hilarious off-the-field and that’s gotten him a lot of notoriety.”

McAfee’s continued rise has helped push traffic to up nearly 8 percent year over year, and sales at the Colts ecommerce and brick-and-mortar stores up 9 percent.

Other factors are pushing Colts merchandise sales, too.

“The team is building momentum from last year, Reggie Wayne’s comeback from injury has been big, Ahmad Bradshaw has also come back from an injury and has done well, and Trent Richardson has settled in and is doing well. On top of that our defense—aside from the Pittsburgh game—is playing really well and that has people excited.”

Player jerseys are by far the top-selling Colts items this year, but a line of Salute to Service items is beating expectations.

“We have a Salute to Service T-shirt, hooded fleece and Andrew Luck camouflage jersey that are doing just great,” Moroknek said.

How does Moroknek expect sales to be for the remainder of the season? Of course, that depends on how many of the remaining seven games they win. Since MainGate runs the Colts Pro Shop at Lucas Oil Stadium, a home playoff game could make a big difference.

“We always sell strong during the playoffs,” Moroknek said. “So we’re hoping and pushing for that.”

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