New Era Uses Facebook To Unveil NFL Cap Collection
By Tim Richardson
On June 25, New Era unveiled its NFL On-Field Cap Collection, which players will wear on the sidelines during games starting in 2012. The Buffalo-based headwear manufacturer rolled out the line via the brand's Facebook page, which has more than 1.3 million likes.
In a unique move, the company gave its Facebook fans the first opportunity to view the new caps. Although this is a significant product launch, Marco Gentile, adjunct professor of sports marketing at Loyola University, said New Era's choice for how to unveil the product did not surprise him.
"You used to often hear comments about Reebok's approach to their now-former NFL headwear rights as 'boring' and 'dated,' " Gentile said. "I think what you see here is New Era's first of many attempts to wake up the NFL hat category they now control by shaking it up 180 degrees, injecting a fresh approach and attitude towards it. It's a new approach, a hip approach. If anything, it will make more people take notice, especially among trendsetters and non-sports fans."
Gentile also said he thought the use of social media as a vehicle for unveiling new products could become a more common approach.
"Getting the news and the pictures on people's Facebook walls and Twitter timelines, breeding discussion and having it go viral, is more likely the future of product launches, more so than the ubiquitous media release and press conference of today," Gentile said.
Beginning July 12, the collection will be available to consumers at New Era Flagship stores, neweracap.com, NFLShop.com and other retailers. The hats are in New Era's signature 59FIFTY category, the company's most popular style.
"This collection is built for the hot days in September and the frigid evenings in December," New ERA CEO Christopher H. Koch said in a release. "For over 90 years, New Era has been providing athletes and fans with high-quality products. We're thrilled to bring our first-ever NFL On-Field Collection with a unique combination of style, comfort and technology to the NFL sidelines."
New Era’s NFL On-Field Collection is infused with NE TECH properties, which will keep both players and fans comfortable regardless of the time of year. The collection also features DRYERA, a specially treated fabric that repels water, and COOLERA, a moisture-management system that quickly disperses sweat.
In April 2012, New Era signed a five-year licensing deal with the NFL and its owners that gives the company exclusive distribution rights and branding for all on-field, sideline and locker room caps, as well as co-exclusive rights for fan headwear worldwide. New Era will also produce hats for marquee events, including the NFL Draft and the Super Bowl, through March 2017.
The deal with the NFL added to the brand's current licensing relationship with Major League Baseball, which has made New Era the official on-field cap since 1994. Having significant relationships with both the NFL and MLB can help New Era maximize the brand's growth potential.
"Look at what New Era did with the age-old Major League Baseball hat -- they turned it into a fashion statement," Gentile said. "MLB-branded hats aren't just 'baseball hats' anymore, but a must-have accessory. They're cool and trendy. With the power the NFL has and the immense popularity of the league's teams and logos, combined with New Era's marketing savvy, I would expect the growth potential from their NFL business to be off the charts."
The popularity of New Era's headwear has transcended sport. From film director and producer Spike Lee to Limp Bizkit front man Fred Durst, celebrities have made New Era's 59FIFTY sports caps staples of their wardrobe.
Keith Askenas has worked in the sports licensing and merchandising business for more than 20 years. His experience includes working with companies such as Fila, Apex One and And1.
"In the sports licensing world, the NFL and MLB are two of the three crown jewels of authenticity," Askenas said. "Any part of a uniform that is worn in a professional sport that can be brought to the retail environment is a winning combination."
Askenas said having relationships with these marquee sports leagues would only elevate the New Era brand.
"This illustrates the power of building and expanding the New Era brand to a global customer base through the powerhouse marketing of these major sports leagues," Askenas said. "These licensing opportunities will have a huge impact on their overall business development by the co-branded products that will be sold in the future."
New Era's revenues in 2011 were approximately $500 million, with approximately 25 percent of the brand's business deriving from international sales.
The 2012 season-opening NFL Kickoff game Sept. 5 between the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys will mark the first time a 59FIFTY cap will appear on the sidelines of an NFL game. The New Era NFL Cold Weather Collection, headlined by knits, headbands and 59FIFTY Dog Ears, will debut later during the season.
Formed in 1920, New Era operates facilities in Canada, Europe, Brazil, Japan and Hong Kong. The company currently holds more than 200 licenses, including deals with organizations such as Disney, Marvel and others. In addition to making products for the NFL and MLB, New Era is a licensee of the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and many international sports leagues.
(Photo courtesy of New Era)
Posted June 28, 2012