It’s almost time for the biggest Sunday of the year. It doesn’t matter if you’re a lifelong Bengals fan, settling in to see your franchise win its first ever championship, or you’re a Los Angeles Rams fan eager to see the Vince Lombardi trophy come to the City of Angels, or maybe you’re just looking forward to good food and some fun commercials – there’s no denying the power of Super Bowl Sunday.
Last year saw a total of 96.4 million people tuning in to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Kansas City Chiefs, and while that was the lowest number of viewers since 2007, it was still easily the most watched television program of the year.
As we approach Super Bowl LVI, we wanted to take a look at our data to learn more about how the big game impacts consumer demand for team gear. Which teams were the most popular last year? Do sales spike for teams in the Super Bowl? And if so, how long does the Super Bowl bump last?
Our data science team analyzed market demand for NFL team merchandise over the past few years to answer these questions and more.
Which NFL teams were the most popular in 2021?
To set a baseline, we wanted to take a broad look at the past year to see which teams were the most popular when it came to consumer demand for their gear on Amazon.
We started by analyzing searches for each team name. Here’s what we found:
The nickname “America’s Team” appears to still hold true – nearly a quarter of demand for NFL team gear on Amazon in 2021 was for the Dallas Cowboys.
In second place was the Buffalo Bills, with 10.5% of all NFL team related searches, while last year’s Super Bowl runner-up, the Kansas City Chiefs, came in at number three.
Tampa Bay, the reigning Super Bowl champs, fell just outside of the top five at number six with 5.9% of the combined market share for NFL team related searches.
This year’s Super Bowl teams were far from the most popular in 2021. The Bengals were the 26th most popular team, and the Rams were tied for the second-to-last most popular team.
In addition to analyzing general searches for team names, we also took a look at consumer demand for team jerseys and team hats to see if specific types of gear moved the needle differently for each team.
Here’s how demand for team jerseys shook out in 2021:
The Cowboys claimed the top spot on this list as well, but demand was more evenly distributed among most teams.
The Steelers saw a huge jump in demand in this view, enough to claim the number two spot. The Buccaneers were the third most popular jersey, which comes as no surprise as Tom Brady was consistently the top selling jersey in the league according to the NFL shop.
The Chiefs were the fourth most popular jersey, further confirming the theory that a Super Bowl appearance brings a big boost in popularity. Which is good news for the Rams and Bengals, who were both once again in the bottom half of the league.
Let’s wrap up this view with a look at team hats.
The Cowboys complete their clean sweep, claiming the top spot in this view as well.
Raiders Nation, meanwhile, appears to look to hats more than jerseys or other types of merchandise when it comes to supporting their team, they lept all the way up to the number two spot for consumer demand for team hats.
The Buccaneers made it into the top five, while the Chiefs claimed the number seven spot. And, once again, the Rams and Bengals fell in the bottom half of the list, with the Bengals sitting all the way down in the bottom five.
Now, it’s obviously too soon to say if Super Bowl LVI will shoot the Rams and Bengals to the top of the list, but let’s dig a bit deeper and see how Super Bowl LV impacted demand for the Buccaneers and the Chiefs.
How much does a Super Bowl appearance impact demand for NFL teams?
Common sense tells us that, yes, we should absolutely expect to see demand for Bengals and Rams gear increase significantly as Super Bowl Sunday approaches. But we wanted to dive deeper into our data to see just what kind of impact a Super Bowl appearance has had on teams in the past.
Let’s start by taking a look at weekly demand for NFL gear over the past two years:
Interestingly, Super Bowl Sunday does not represent a high point for NFL gear demand. This makes some sense as by that point there are only two fanbases left who are eager to buy their team’s gear.
Instead, it appears that the holiday shopping season represents the typical high-point when it comes to demand for NFL team gear. The next most significant spikes occur during the opening weeks of the regular season and the start of the NFL Playoffs.
To contrast, let’s first look at weekly demand for Kansas City Chiefs gear, as they participated in each of the last two Super Bowls.
Demand for Chiefs Gear absolutely skyrocketed during the 2019-2020 playoffs, peaking during the week of the AFC Championship game that sent the Chiefs to Super Bowl LIV. It then fell sharply in the weeks following their Super Bowl victory, but there does appear to be a slight long-term boost.
The next year once again saw demand peak during the week of the AFC Championship game, although with a much lower crest and a much sharper drop off in the wake of the Chief’s Super Bowl loss.
Comparing average monthly demand over the past 3 years paints a clearer picture of the long-term impact of a Super Bowl appearance and victory:
The 2018-19 playoffs saw the Chiefs reach the AFC Championship Game, but it was the team’s first Super Bowl win that brought an astronomical leap in average demand. That excitement clearly lingered, as the 2020 offseason saw demand increase by 260% compared to the 2019 offseason.
As we saw in our weekly view above, demand dropped during the 2020-21 playoffs compared to the previous year, even before the Chiefs eventually lost in the Super Bowl. This could be the result of COVID-19 restricting in-person attendance at games, or simply fewer fans jumping on the bandwagon, or a combination of factors.
No matter how you slice it, though, there’s no doubt that success on the field translated to huge boosts in demand for Kansas City gear.
Now let’s take a look at last year’s Super Bowl Champion, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Unlike the Chiefs, who have had several years of playoff success, the Buccaneers stormed onto the stage as unlikely champs last season after the off-season addition of Tom Brady in 2020. In fact, demand for Buccaneers gear was almost zero until the week of March 15th, 2020, which is when the legendary quarterback joined the team.
The week of the NFC Championship game when the Buccaneers upset the top seeded Green Bay Packers, demand for Tampa Bay gear absolutely skyrocketed. Demand that week was up by over 1,200% compared to the weeks before the playoffs began.
While that spike throws off the scale of the chart quite a bit, you can still see the clear impact that Super Bowl win had on demand throughout 2021. Demand at the start of the season and during the mid-December holiday shopping rush were both much larger in 2021 than those same weeks in 2020.
Here you can see the clear impact of a surprise Super Bowl appearance. Fans were so excited after the Buccaneers Super Bowl win that the 2021 offseason saw average monthly demand actually outpace that of the 2020-21 regular season.
This is strong evidence that we should expect to see similar extreme increases in demand for both Bengals and Rams gear after the results of this past weekend’s Conference Championship games.
Bengals vs. Rams – which team has had the more passionate fans so far?
We don’t have the data yet to see how both team’s big victories on Conference Championship weekend has impacted demand for their gear, but we couldn’t finish this piece without at least taking a look at demand for our two Super Bowl teams to see which one is trending ahead of the other so far:
The 2020-21 season saw Bengals fans start the season buying more gear than Rams fans, but by the holidays, demand was higher for Rams gear.
Both fanbases were definitely more passionate this season, but Bengals fans definitely have had the edge all season long. Particularly the most recent week in which we have data, which was just before the playoffs started.
We expect to see incredible surges in demand from all weeks of the playoffs, but early trends so far suggest that Bengals fans have the early edge coming into Super Bowl Sunday.
Has COVID-19 impacted demand for NFL gear?
It’s abundantly clear that a trip to the Super Bowl results in near and long-term increases in demand for that team’s gear. But before we wrap up our analysis, we wanted to take a quick look back at the past few years to see if the COVID-19 pandemic has had any impact on demand for NFL gear.
Unlike the NBA, which experienced a stoppage in play during the height of the pandemic in 2020, the NFL has seen their seasons go uninterrupted, although they have experienced various restrictions on in-person attendance of games since the pandemic began.
Interestingly, we see that in the immediate wake of the early COVID-19 shutdowns, demand for NFL team gear was actually up compared to the 2019 offseason. That increase was short-lived, however, as September 2020 fell far behind the pre-pandemic season opener.
Same goes for December’s holiday shopping season, which was down in 2020 compared to 2019 – although 2019 also represented a significant drop compared to 2018.
Interestingly, though, January 2021 actually saw demand outpace the same month in 2020 and 2019, which suggests that the pandemic had little to no impact on consumer demand for team gear during the NFL playoffs.
It will be interesting, then, to see if January 2022 sees yet another increase in demand compared to previous playoffs.
A lesson for brands
Our analysis shows that while the holiday shopping season typically drives the most overall demand for NFL team gear, a Super Bowl appearance is more than enough to drive significant increases in demand for that team’s gear.
With the Bengals and the Rams on their way to Super Bowl LVI, we expect gear for both teams to start flying off the digital shelves as the big game approaches. And whichever team wins the big game is almost guaranteed to see a healthy long tail in boosted demand.
Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.
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