For Sports Leagues, Women's Apparel Is Growth Market

Article excerpt

Women's apparel is becoming a major focus for sports licensing, according to licensors at a panel discussion on sports licensing, moderated by Martin Brochstein, Executive Editor of MTW's sister publication, THE LICENSING LETTER, at The Super Show in January. Several major sports leagues identified women's apparel as a key growth area for licensed apparel.

Panelists say a significant change has occurred in the availability of female-specific designs, which allows licensors and manufacturers to offer better-fitting and more fashionably colored products. Several companies note that they've stepped up--and altered--their female-focused marketing efforts as a result.

Mark Holtzman, SVP Consumer Products for the National Football League (NFL), says, "When we did [women's products] before, it was basically trying to take down men's product. Now we're producing women-specific products, built to women's specs, and we're also going much further outside teams' primary color palettes. So we're coming up with fashionable color." A recent example of successful experimentation with women's products in unusual colors: a pink Philadelphia Eagles hat sold extremely well.

Pat Battle, President of Collegiate Licensing Co., which facilitates licensing for college sports teams, says, "We have been talking about [women's apparel] for a long time, but I think the difference is the commitment on the part of the licensees, in terms of producing women-specific product.

"For so long, it was just, 'Take the regular product in the line and market it differently.' It's being marketed differently and produced differently today. From a product standpoint, I think the commitment for the licensees is making a difference."

Sal Larocca, SVP of the Global Merchandising Group for NBA Entertainment, says the league's NBA For Her merchandising effort, which includes basketball jersey dresses, was well-timed: "[NBA For Her] was largely driven by the fashion component of the market and just became very much a beneficiary of or a complement to what was going on in the fashion part of the market generally. …