In this year’s Super Bowl, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes went head to head, with the Buccaneers’ signal caller coming out on top. And after alternating in the top two slots of the NFLPA top 50 players sales list, Brady has once again bested Mahomes. This is a record fourth time Brady has sat atop the list and the 23rd time he’s been in the top three.
The Buccaneers’ quarterback also broke the Fanatics record for most jerseys sold in a single season while accounting for 19% of all Buccaneers championship sales in the four days after the Super Bowl. Brady didn’t completely dominate Mahomes: The Chiefs QB finished first in Funko Pop vinyl collectibles, face coverings from FOCO and JUNK’s athletic headbands. Rounding out the top five are three more quarterbacks: the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers.
The rankings are based on sales from March 1, 2020 through Feb. 28, 2021. Licensed products include, among many others: adult and youth game jerseys, T-shirts, hoodies, bobbleheads, plush toys, socks, face coverings, headbands, figurines, wall decals, backpacks, pennants, photos, drinkware, and pet products. And despite the pandemic, NFLPA licensees broke a record for the seventh straight year, with $2.17 billion in retail sales.
“We’ve got a licensee base in place that meets the growing demand,” said Steve Scebelo, president of NFL Players Inc., the marketing and licensing division for the NFLPA. Scebelo, who was promoted in November 2020, led NFL Players Inc. to an all-time high in revenue, surpassing $210 million. “As players enter the league and they become active members of the players’ association we want to make sure that we’re helping open the doors to those partnerships so that those partners can maximize it.”
The list features 44 offensive players and just six defensive players, including 19 quarterbacks, nine running backs, 13 wide receivers, three tight ends, three linebackers and three defensive linemen/ends. Outside of Tagovailoa and Bengals QB Joe Burrow, the only other rookies to make the list were Cowboys wideout CeeDee Lamb, Chargers QB Justin Herbert and Washington defensive end Chase Young. Lamb was the second-highest receiver on the list.
Every year, the NFLPA hosts a ‘Rookie Premiere’ event to introduce companies to 40 of the NFL’s newest players following the draft. Its goal is to assist brands and players find one another and build mutually beneficial relationships. Some benefit more than others: Top picks like Trevor Lawrence have already begun to cash in with deals from Adidas and Gatorade.
Established players can also improve their ranking over the season. Some of the biggest movers from preseason to year-end include Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill. Both Kamara and Henry jumped into the middle of the pack; Kamara leaped from 37 to 22 ,while Henry followed behind him going from 40 to 26. Diggs and Hill made their way back onto the list after stellar seasons for their respective teams.
“By far the biggest driver in [sales] is performance on the field and wins and losses for the team,” said Jack Boyle, Fanatics’ global co-president, direct to consumer. Last year was the first in which Fanatics made all of Nike’s jerseys and fan gear that was sold at retailers. “There’s been a massive shift in consumer behavior, everything has been digitized and our e-commerce business has surged. In addition to face coverings, our salute to service products were standouts and so were headwear and memorabilia.”
With the NFL signaling that stadiums will be back to full capacity for the upcoming season, Boyle said fans can expect to see a “level of newness” next fall.
As for future products, the NFLPA’s Scebelo hinted at NFTs later in the year. “I definitely anticipate that we’re going to have NFTs in the market, in season and in a fun and compelling way,” he said. “There are so many types of NFTs that can be done, the surface has only been scratched.”