Fashion has swept football.
The NFL has experienced a banner season for style, with players embracing high-fashion looks during their tunnel walks and Taylor Swift showing her team spirit through fashion at Kansas City Chiefs games, wearing items including a red cashmere sweater from Guest in Residence and a custom-made Chiefs jacket from Kristin Juszczyk.
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Fashion has gotten more involved during the past few seasons, tapping football players as brand ambassadors, launching merchandise collections and activating around tentpole events for moments that have resonated deeply with football and fashion fans alike. Juszczyk, for one, signed a licensing deal with the NFL after her custom jacket for Swift went viral.
Now with the Super Bowl days away in Las Vegas, fashion brands such as Boss, Mitchell & Ness, Stoney Clover Lane, ‘47 and others are getting in on the action by launching a slew of collaborations targeting the NFL’s diverse fan base. And the NFL itself has been strategically using fashion collaborations, too, in order to cater to underserved fan bases.
“There’s been a steady progression over the last two to three years,” said Ryan Samuelson, vice president of consumer products at the NFL, on fashion brands’ involvement in the league. “To be honest, [fashion] wasn’t an area we were extraordinarily focused on in the past — when I say the past it’s going back five to seven years ago. It’s been more of a concerted effort over that time to really lean into brands that expose us to different consumers and broadening the reach. The NFL, we obviously have such a broad reach right now in terms of how many fans we touch, but what this has really done is enabled us to dive into fashion specifically.”
To reach more women, for example, the NFL has collaborated or signed licensing agreements with brands including Stoney Clover Lane, Staud and BaubleBar, among others.
According to the 2021 SSRS Sports Poll, women and girls over the age of 8 make up 46 percent of the NFL’s fanbase, or about 84 million female fans. The poll also indicated that 45 percent of the NFL’s fans under the age of 35 are women and girls.
“We really know from our own experience that there is a huge audience of women — women who are thinking about style and fashion who are huge fans of the league,” said Daniella Yacobovsky, cofounder of BaubleBar, which first debuted its NFL collaboration in 2021. “They have their teams that they’re following and they’re attending games. They want to participate and be a visible fan, and they want to do it in a fashion forward and cool way.”
BaubleBar has expanded its NFL accessories collections season-to-season, most recently teaming with sportscaster Erin Andrews on a jewelry collection. For the Chiefs’ AFC Championship win last month, Swift was seen wearing a charm necklace from Andrews’ collection.
Stoney Clover Lane also debuted its NFL collection, a collaboration with sports lifestyle brand ‘47, last month offering vintage-inspired apparel and accessories for the Super Bowl.
“The NFL, their fans are made up of 46 percent women, so there’s obviously a huge amount of women fans that have traditionally been underserved in that market,” said ‘47 president Dominic Farrell. “When we talk to them, they’re really looking for quality goods that suit what they want, not just a ‘shrink it and pink it’ men’s version. That’s really what we’re focused on.”
Other collaborations are aimed at extending the NFL’s reach internationally. Since 2005, the NFL has been hosting roughly four regular season games outside the U.S. This season, three games were played in England, and two were played in Germany.
Boss has been working with the NFL for the last year, naming Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes a brand ambassador and releasing its Super Bowl collection last month. Boss will also host several activations in Las Vegas ahead of the game, including a meet and greet with the Las Vegas Raiders’ coaching staff.
“We saw loads of untapped potential,” said Nadia Kokni, senior vice president of global marketing and brand communications at Hugo Boss. “Sport is within the DNA of Boss and as an international brand and a German brand — the NFL is making steps outside of the U.S., certainly playing the games at the Tottenham Hotspurs stadium and Wembley in the U.K. and then in Frankfurt as well — we know that the sport is growing and having this international reach, so to be shoulder-to-shoulder with such a dynamic sport that’s really growing, it really just reflects the Boss philosophy of our 24/7 lifestyle.”
Sporting goods label Mitchell & Ness has long worked with the NFL on merchandise collections, and this year received many last-minute inquiries from international fashion brands wanting to collaborate for the Super Bowl, said chief executive officer Eli Kumekpor.
For the Super Bowl, Mitchell & Ness released an Usher-themed collection celebrating the musician’s highly-anticipated Apple Music Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show performance.
“We have a history in the sports world, but coming in we actually have occupied this unique position that sits at the intersection of sports, fashion and to a certain extent culture — as we call it youth culture, sports culture, hip hop culture, just culture overall,” Kumekpor said. “So, when you look at the Super Bowl and what it’s become, I think it’s actually the pinnacle event that sits at the cross-section of all of those from a fan perspective.”
The NFL players themselves are also bringing fashion further into the sport via their pre-game looks during the NFL tunnel. Players like Travis Kelce, Stefon Diggs, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Deebo Samuel and many others regularly made an impact week-to-week for their tunnel outfits.
“It used to be that the league ‘fits on the NBA side were the only thing,” Kumekpor said. “Now, you’ve got [NFL] tunnel ‘fits. A lot of people aren’t necessarily coming in because of the game. They’re really connecting with [the players’] sense of style and individuality, or they are seeing themselves in some of these players. That’s a big positive for the league for the space.”
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