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The Big Game and Supply Chains

By: Seth Lennon
Jan 30

By the time the latest edition of The WRAP Weekly is released, Super Bowl 54 will be well under way, and in a few hours, either the Kansas City Chiefs (hopefully) or the San Francisco 49ers will be crowned champions of the National Football League. By the end of Sunday evening, 53 individuals will be celebrating a victory that will echo for years to come. As part of that celebration, teams will receive shirts, hats and other apparel commemorating their achievement.

But where do those shirts come from? Its highly doubtful that Fanatics (the provider of such apparel for most of the major sports) has a manufacturing facility built in the basement of Hard Rock Stadium, the venue in Miami, Florida that is hosting the game. Nope, those items are premade and available on-site. Also, there are significant quantities of these items that are pre-printed for immediate sale on the appropriate online venues.

Items for both teams.

Which means, yes. There will be Super Bowl champion shirts for teams that…didn’t win the Super Bowl.

In 2007 for example, Sports Authority printed 15,000 shirts proclaiming “Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears” a week before they faced off against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl 41. The Bears ended up losing to the Colts 29-17.

This revelation transitions into a question. What to do with those shirts? I doubt that the National Football League would be thrilled with the concept of people walking down the streets with 2019 Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl Champions shirts as much as the NHL would be excited about seeing someone walking down the Las Vegas Strip wearing a Vegas Golden Knights 2018 Stanley Cup t-shirt.

So, I still pose the question, what happens to these items?

While there was a brief flirtation with destroying these items, it does appear that there is indeed a happy ending for these so-called misfit items.

These shirts head to organizations such as Alexandria, VA based Good360, which happens to be located close to WRAP’s headquarters in Arlington, VA. These items have done a great deal of good, with never-issued Colts apparel heading to help those impacted by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and others heading to places such as El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Zambia.

Those Bears shirts I mentioned...they did in fact find a home. 

However, while it is good to see apparel that would have otherwise been destroyed go somewhere that they can be used, there are still a couple of issues that do indeed need to be…tackled.

First, several countries in Africa, which are the recipients of these misfit goods, have been making a concerted effort to revive their domestic apparel industries. There is a great deal of data that supports the assertion that secondhand apparel has harmed domestic industries. Many nations on the African continent have gone as far as instituting laws that either restrict or outright ban the influx of used clothing to protect local entrepreneurs.

Secondly, we are not all that far away from being able to produce goods “on demand” – Amazon, for example recently secured a patent for a fitting and manufacturing system that can quickly turnaround a custom product. There is a reasonable expectation that this concept could be applied to this example. Could we one day can produce such shirts on-demand at a major outlet, reducing any potential waste as close to zero as we possibly can? I think the technology is getting there. And that would not only reduce apparel waste, but indirectly, help a domestic apparel production industry get back on its own two feet and generate economic opportunity for citizens of that country.

Writing this piece has shown me that we are not operating in a vacuum, that everything we do, especially in this space, is interconnected.

Meanwhile, here’s me hoping that come Sunday-evening, I was able to purchase my shirt that read “Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.”

 

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