Fashion has swept football.
The NFL has experienced a banner season for style, with players adopting high-fashion looks during their tunnel walks and Taylor Swift showing her team spirit through fashion at Kansas City Chiefs games, wearing items including a jersey red cashmere from Guest in Residence and custom. Chiefs jacket made by Kristin Juszczyk.
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Fashion has become more involved in the last few seasons, using football players as brand ambassadors, launching merchandise collections and implementing tentpole events for moments that are very relevant to both football and fashion fans. Juszczyk, for one, signed a licensing deal with the NFL after his custom jacket for Swift went viral.
Now that the Super Bowl days are away in Las Vegas, fashion brands like Boss, Mitchell & Ness, Stoney Clover Lane, ’47 and others are getting in on the action by launching collaborations that target the diverse fan base of the NFL. And the NFL itself is also using fashion collaborations strategically, to serve underserved fan bases.
“There’s been steady progress over the last two or three years,” said Ryan Samuelson, the NFL’s vice president of consumer products, regarding the involvement of fashion brands in the league. “To make the truth, [fashion] it’s not an area that we’ve been very focused on in the past — when I say the past it’s going back five to seven years ago. It’s been more of a concerted effort during that period to really push into brands that introduce us to different consumers and broaden the reach. The NFL, obviously we have such a wide range right now in terms of the number of fans that we connect with, but what it’s really done is we can really dive into fashion specifically.”
To reach more women, for example, the NFL has collaborated or signed licensing agreements with brands including Stoney Clover Lane, Staud and BaubleBar, among others.
According to the SSRS 2021 Sports Poll, women and girls over the age of 8 make up 46 percent of NFL fans, or about 84 million female fans. The poll also revealed that 45 percent of NFL fans under the age of 35 are women and girls.
“We really know from our own experience that there is a huge female audience – style- and fashion-conscious women who are huge fans of the league,” said Daniella Yacobovsky, co-founder of BaubleBar, which debuted its NFL collaboration for the first time in 2021. “They have their teams that they follow and they are attending games. They want to participate and be a visible fan, and they want to do it in a progressive and cool way.”
BaubleBar has expanded its NFL accessories collections from season to season, most recently teaming up with sportscaster Erin Andrews on a jewelry collection. To win the AFC Champions League last month, Swift was seen wearing a charm necklace from the Andrews collection.
Stoney Clover Lane also debuted its NFL collection, a collaboration with sports lifestyle brand ’47, last month offering vintage-inspired clothing and accessories for the Super Bowl.
“The NFL, its fan base is 46 percent female, so there’s obviously a large number of female fans that have traditionally been underserved in that market,” said ’47 president Dominic Farrell. “When we talk to them, they’re really looking for quality products that fit what they want, not just the men’s version of ‘Shrink it and pink it’. That’s really what we’re aiming for.”
Another collaboration is aimed at expanding the NFL’s reach internationally. Since 2005, the NFL has hosted approximately four regular season games outside the U.S. This season, three games were played in England, and two were played in Germany.
Boss has been working with the NFL for the past year, naming Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes a brand ambassador and releasing his Super Bowl collection last month. Boss will host several activities in Las Vegas prior to the game, including a meet and greet with the Las Vegas Raiders coaching staff.
“We saw a lot of untapped potential,” said Nadia Kokni, senior vice president of global marketing and brand communications at Hugo Boss. “The sport is within the DNA of Boss and as an international brand and a German brand – the NFL is making steps outside the US, certainly playing the games at Tottenham Hotspurs stadium and Wembley in the UK and then also in Frankfurt – we know that the sport is growing and that it has this international connection, so to be shoulder-to-shoulder with such a dynamic sport that is really growing, it really reflects the Boss philosophy of our lifestyle 24 /7.”
Sports goods label Mitchell & Ness has long worked with the NFL on merchandise collections, and this year received many last-minute inquiries from international fashion brands wanting to collaborate for the Super Bowl, said chief executive officer Eli Kumekpor.
For the Super Bowl, Mitchell & Ness released an Usher-themed compilation celebrating the musician’s Apple Music Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show performance.
“We have a history in the world of sports, but coming in we have this unique position that sits at the intersection of sports, fashion and to some extent culture – what we call youth culture, sports culture, hip hop culture, whole culture, ” said Kumekpor. “So when you look at the Super Bowl and what it is now, I think it’s the winning event that’s intersecting all of those people from a fan perspective.”
The NFL players themselves are also bringing fashion further into the sport through their pre-game looks during the NFL tunnel. Players like Travis Kelce, Stefon Diggs, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Deebo Samuel and many others regularly made an impact from week to week out of their tracksuits.
“It was the only thing in the league,” Kumekpor said. “Now, yes [NFL] tunnel fits. The game doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of people coming in. They are really connecting with [the players’] sense of style and individuality, or they are evident in some of these players. That’s a positive thing for the league for the space.”
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