Regardless of who wins the Super Bowl this year, you can bet the winning team cradling the Vince Lombardi Trophy will be decked out in championship apparel -- mere minutes after the game ends.
That’s because sports apparel manufacturers prepare for either team winning, in anticipation of the mad dash of fans looking to immediately snag the victor’s merchandise.
But what happens to the thousands of pre-printed sweaters, T-shirts and other victory memorabilia for the losing team?
The short answer: it doesn’t go to a dump in the United States. But it definitely leaves the country.
Since 2015, Good360, a charitable organization based in Alexandra, Va., has been helping distribute the losing team’s arguably unusable NFL merchandise. Their work also includes finding recipients for excess NFL merchandise and pre-printed merchandise from the AFC and NFC Championship games.
Past donations have gone to countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, according to Good360’s chief development officer and chief marketing officer Shari Rudolph.
She called the items “sensitive donations” during a phone interview with CTVNews.ca and she wouldn’t name specific countries. She said the secrecy was meant to avoid repurposed items ending up in the “grey market here in the United States or into auctions or flea markets.”
Besides working with the NFL, Good360 also matches thousands of U.S. and international non-profit organizations with other people or companies looking to donate their products.
She said their work is helpful because “we’re keeping those goods from ending up in landfills or being destroyed. So we’re extending the useful life of those goods.”
Their planning begins well before the final game clock runs out, with Good360 co-ordinating with the league before playoffs to figure out where unused merchandise could go. And by late January, they’re already organizing where to send items from the AFC and NFC conferences’ losing teams.January 24, 2020
Anna Isaacson, NFL’s senior vice-president of social responsibility told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview she was proud of the relationship with Good360 because “we’re an organization that believes in using our platform for good and giving back to the community.”
Rudolph explained “we work with a small handful of non-profits to find out who needs these particular goods in regions that have been pre-approved by the NFL and that are outside of the United States.”
Once the goods are shipped, these local non-profits donate them to people in the communities they regularly work in. Rudolph said Good360 relies of them to convey the needs and socioeconomic situation of the communities to “make sure that we’re not moving goods where they might do more harm than good.”
Her company has been doing similar work with Major League Baseball’s World Series for the past couple years.
Before Good360 took over, the NFL had spent approximately two decades doing similar work with international humanitarian aid group World Vision. And according to a now-deleted World Vision press release from 2011, the unused, pre-printed championship clothing from Super Bowl XLV had been set to go to Zambia, Armenia, Nicaragua and Romania.
The post also noted that in previous years, “inaccurate” Super Bowl gear had went to countries such as El Salvador, Indonesia, and 2010 Haiti earthquake victims. CTVNews.ca has reached out to World Vision for comment.June 2, 2014
As for just how many boxes worth of merchandise is donated each year, Rudolph would only say it involved “thousands of individual items.” But neither she nor Isaacson divulged exact figures.
Throughout the company’s roughly 40-year history with other organizations, including the NFL, Rudolph estimates more than US$9 billion-worth of products has been donated overall.
“It’s meaningful because we're helping companies responsively distribute goods … into the hands of individuals in need or who are facing any type of challenging life circumstances,” she said. “It’s incredible how transformational the gift of a single item … not just in somebody’s day but in somebody’s life.”
NFL: DONATIONS JUST ONE ASPECT OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
However, some critics have argued there are other ways to help the developing world. And that these donations simply flood local marketplaces with goods that U.S. consumers didn’t want which could potentially drive down the prices of similar items sold by local merchants.
But Isaacson stressed that the NFL’s donations are simply one aspect of helping communities from other countries.
“It shouldn’t been seen as the be-all and end-all of our social responsibility commitment but it’s an important piece of it,” she said, stressing that “no one here is saying that a T-shirt, a sweatshirt or a hat is going to necessarily lift someone out of poverty.”
“Whether or not the recipients are fans of the team or know about the NFL, its brand-new clothing to people who might not have it,” she said.
And although she’s doesn’t deal with consumer products directly, Isaacson guessed “it’s just not possible” to avoid making excess products for such high-profile games.
“Players -- obviously in these significant games -- want to wear the product right away and our fans who are passionate want to buy the product right away,” she explained, adding that “you literally do not know until the clock ticks down to zero who the winner’s going to be.”