Suiting Up in Jerseys Suitable for Women
By TANZINA VEGA [original article available HERE]
LADIES, if you have ever wanted to wear strappy stilettos with your favorite football jersey, you are in luck. This fall, the National Football League will begin an advertising campaign encouraging you to do just that.
The campaign, called “N.F.L. Women’s Apparel, Fit For You,” takes an approach to marketing clothing that is meant to be both fashionable and sporty.
And while jerseys and T-shirts for women have been available on Web sites like nflshop.com and in catalogs, this is the first time the league has dedicated a campaign to apparel for women.
If the terms “fashionable” and “football jersey” seem contradictory, that may be because of the way jerseys have been made. The league has carried women’s attire for the last 10 years, but followed the “shrink it and pink it” philosophy of taking a man’s jersey and making it smaller and, well, pink.
In 2007, the actress Alyssa Milano joined with the G-III Apparel Group to start a woman’s apparel line with the N.F.L. called Touch by Alyssa Milano for the 2008 season.
When a woman wears a traditional man’s jersey, “you just look like you’re wearing a big tent,” said Alice Ericsson, executive vice president and group creative director for Grey New York, which is working with the N.F.L. on the campaign (Grey New York is a unit of the Grey Group, part of WPP).
Mark Waller, the chief marketing officer for the N.F.L., agreed that the large cut of men’s jersey’s wasn’t flattering to women. It “kind of makes them look like a sack of potatoes,” he said.
The campaign features clothing from Ms. Milano’s Touch line and new items like animal print T-shirts, fleece sweatshirts, fitted jerseys and jackets. Also available, though not part of the campaign, will be plush flip-flops, customizable jeans and bedazzled wedges. The N.F.L. joined with G-III, VF, Reebok, Concept One, Little Earth, LogoArt, For Bare Feet, Modo and Gametime to produce the products.
“When I look at what women are wearing now, they are trying to be fashionable and yet show they are fit,” Mr. Waller said, adding that the campaign aims for women ages 20 to 40 who are active, family-oriented and casual or avid fans of football.
And there seem to be more of those. According to research by the Nielsen Company, an average of 41.9 million women 18 and older watched Super Bowl XLIV — the most on record, and more than watched the Academy Awards this year.
Additional research by the N.F.L. and Nielsen showed more than 45 million women watch N.F.L. games each weekend.
“Obviously we’ve got a large and passionate female fan base already. As we get more sophisticated in our marketing approach, we get to dive deeper and develop more targeted and appropriate messaging,” Mr. Waller said. The company plans to spend $10 million on the entire campaign.
A television spot that will be broadcast during kick-off weekend, Sept. 9-12, features the women of the N.F.L. sassily tossing their men’s jerseys back to them to the tune of “You Don’t Own Me,” a classic Lesley Gore song.
A print campaign that will begin in October will feature stylized photos of the women, among them Christy Cooley, who is married to Chris Cooley, a tight end on the Washington Redskins; Linda and Hope Del Rio, the wife and daughter of Jack Del Rio, the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars; and Michelle Ryan, who is married to Rex Ryan, the head coach of the New York Jets.
But some wives are luckier than others in their choices. “We’re fortunate enough to have the jaguar print,” Linda Del Rio said about her game day attire. “I’ve been in the league for 25 years and I always remember having to put on your husband’s jersey when doing charity work,” she added. “Now you can put on really cute clothes.”
The print ads feature headlines like, “Who Says Football Isn’t Pretty?” and “Finally. Love Your Team Without Looking Like You’re on It.” The campaign will run in magazines like Shape, InStyle and People.
“I think the idea of treating sports apparel like high fashion is pretty unique,” Ms. Ericsson said of the idea to mix designer label clothing with the N.F.L. line during the shoot. “It’s certainly new for the N.F.L.”
Like many campaigns created for major league sports, this one has a charity component. Alliance, the Grey Group’s entertainment marketing and public relations arm, will organize a series of 5K walks in various regions around the country. The walks will benefit charities that fall under the N.F.L. Play 60, a program that encourages children to play.
The Web campaign will start in mid-September and will feature an updated Facebook page, a Twitter presence and a microsite at nfl.com/women, where consumers will be encouraged to submit videos showing how they style their gear, for a chance to win a trip to Super Bowl XLV.
If football and fashion seem at odds, so too does football and healthy eating. The N.F.L. site, however, will also have a variety of Web videos showcasing healthy tailgating recipes and workout routines.
“This generation will actually be the first generation that lives less longer than their parents,” Mr. Waller said. “Our product is fundamentally dependent on having fit and healthy athletes.”