By Barry Janoff
April 2, 2012: Eighteen months after signing a deal with the NFL, Nike officially took over on April 1 as the league's official uniform outfitter and - no April Fool's Day joke - the NFL Shop site put many of its Reebok goods on sale for as much as 75-85% off.
The five-year deal, signed in October 2010, sees Nike replacing adidas division Reebok as the official uniform provider. Reebok's deal ten-year deal with the NFL expired after the 2011-12 season.
In addition to Nike, new apparel-related partners now activating under the deal — valued by industry analysts at $1 billion and more — include Under Armour, New Era, G-III Apparel Group, VF Corp., Outerstuff Ltd. and '47 Brand headwear.
According to Nike, official jerseys will hit be available for pre-order April 15 and available for sale April 26, to coincide with the NFL Draft. As part of its marketing support, Nike multi-media activation will include TV, print and Internet. Nike and the NFL Shop have unveiled a sweepstakes in which five people who register at the site will get a $100 gift certificate.
"Initial response to the product has been great," Charlie Denson, Nike brand president, told analysts and media during a conference call on March 22. "Orders so far have exceeded all of our expectations. We're incredibly excited about the potential of our partnership with the NFL."
Nike said it would officially unveil the 2012 NFL jerseys on April 3 during an event expected to take place in Brooklyn, NY. The jerseys will then head to Manhattan and will be on display beginning later that day at the NFL's pre-draft pop-up store, which has taken over Avenue of the Americas between 41-42nd Street.
(The store itself opens April 2 at 10:45 AM ET, with the NFL offering a free commemorative 2012 draft coin to the first 500 people.)
Among the items expected to drive sales are Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow's New York Jets jerseys. T-shirts featuring their names and respective team logos already are available at the NFL Shop Web site.
Also anticipated to be a hot seller is the jersey from incoming rookie Andrew Luck, who is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts later this month.
In addition, Nike is gearing up its own Web store for the new products and supporting with information at dedicated social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook.
"I'm confident we'll create a lot of positive energy when we launch this product on April 3 in New York City and when the jerseys hit the shelves during the NFL Draft later in the month," Denson said during the conference call.
Nike itself seems to be unable to predict demand for certain items. At its Nike Shop Twitter site, one consumer asked, "Do you anticipate having Green Bay Packers shirts a week from now in XXL?" To which Nike replied, "They could sell out, they could not."
Meanwhile, at the NFL Shop Web site, outgoing official Reebok jerseys from such players as Michael Vick, Joe Flacco, Tony Romo, Larry Fitzgerald and Darrelle Revis have been relegated to a section called "Outlet Sale."
"We talk a lot about our mission and our ability to lead and transform the marketplace," Denson said during the conference call. "In North America that means having our hands on all the levers, across channels, up and down price points, online and in-store with our partners."
Regarding the pre-order and other iindicators the company has seen in advance of the NFL deal kicking in, Denson said, "I consistently refer to the North American marketplace as the best example of our category offense in action. It's where we have our deepest retail partnerships and where [direct-to-consumer] business is most advanced . . . If I haven’t been working here for the last 33 years, I'd swear, North America might even be considered an emerging market."