The New England Patriots announced a jersey guarantee program this week. It is the first of its kind in professional sports, and provides fans a 25 percent discount on their next jersey if the player whose jersey they purchased is no longer with the team. This sounds like a win-win. The NFL is notorious for roster turnover, and fans who purchase jerseys are sometimes at the mercy of a team’s capologist. Vince Wilfork, a Patriots’ captain and veteran presence on defense, was almost cut this off-season due to his exorbitant cap number. There would be a lot of discounts handed out if Wilfork suited up for another team.
Some people have already pointed out issues with the Patriots’ kindness. However, this is really a savvy business move. First, consumers may be more likely to buy fringe players’ jerseys. Plenty of folks have a Tom Brady jersey, but now fans may be more apt to buy a Julian Edelman jersey. How about being really NFL hipster cool and taking a chance on a Brandon LaFell jersey? If he doesn’t make the team, you can always return it and go with a red alternate Gronkowski jersey to go with your home blue one. Afraid of purchasing that Darrelle Revis jersey only to see him bolt town after he gets cut next year? You can just return the jersey and buy his replacement’s next year.
Fans are happy and it is a great PR move by the Patriots. Be sure to read the fine print though. The promotion has specific rules that benefit the Patriots. The return must be done within a year of purchase. That seems reasonable. Fans could time their purchases based on cuts and free agency.
Then there is the issue of where the jersey was purchased. It must be purchased on the Patriots’ website or at the team’s pro shop to be eligible. Buy your Kyle Arrington jersey at Dick’s Sporting Goods? Sorry, no rebate for you!
Why is this such a big deal? The Patriots (and all teams for that matter) retain revenues from its on-site pro shop. This means the Patriots are actively creating more sales while being generous enough to give their fans 25 percent off their next jersey purchase. Unlike other sales, this revenue isn’t split among the league’s 32 teams. Instead, it all goes back to the Patriots. New England has been winning pretty consistently on the field for the past 10 years, and now they are winning in business. This week they won a PR battle and conceivably could have created more purchases of their apparel at their pro shop.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.