By David G. Firestone
I don’t normally tie in a My Thoughts On with the Friday Feature, but this week I’m going to. I’m not going to spoil the Friday Feature, so don’t worry. But I’ve been following this NASCAR Merchandise tent story, and I’m kind of shocked that it took NASCAR as long as it did to start using the tent. The large tent with all the drivers represented is an idea that should have been implemented years ago, but wasn’t. From what I have heard it is a great thing, but like most things in sports, it will be a work in progress.
I do give NASCAR credit for signing a deal with Fanatics. Fanatics is a merchandise company that operates retail outlets across the country, and uses their website to sell a whole array of items. They do offer some race-used memorabilia, but the race used memorabilia hobby always has and will be dominated by individual sellers, who collect and research items.
When I go to The Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, the NHRA has their own merchandise tent, referred to as “The Nitro Mall” and the teams have their own haulers set up at various points at the track. You can buy most anything driver branded, but I love to buy race-used parts, which are in plentiful supply.
Sports merchandise as a whole is a huge business. That is why teams will change uniforms every few years, especially NCAA uniforms. But I’m beginning to wonder if we have hit, or will soon hit peak merchandise. I get that fans want team branded merchandise, but how much is too much? For example, the latest thing I’ve seen is team branded phone chargers. You spend $25 to get a cord and dock with your team’s logo on it.
It’s different in auto racing because much of the merchandise is designed by the sponsor. Sponsors get cuts from merchandise sales, so they will be involved in the design process. I can’t help but wonder how much of a company’s budget, take Lowe’s for example, is spent on this process. The top sellers in merchandise all have sponsors with deep pockets, and huge advertising budgets. I would love to see the amount spent by the company on racing merchandise each season.
I’m willing to bet we will see an implosion of the sports merchandise market soon. I just can’t see the current merchandise level being maintained for much longer. Something has to give, and I think it will give soon. It will never go away, but it can’t hold on for much longer.