Seahawks players taking business into own hands with online stores
If you go to Richard Sherman’s Twitter feed this week, you won’t see any of the usually colorful posts and bombast from the Seahawks star about Sunday’s dramatic overtime win over the Denver Broncos. But you will see a few promoting his website and online store.
Sherman is just one of many players who’ve set up shop for themselves online, selling their own personalized sweatshirts and other merchandise.
It’s a big departure from the old model, where players relied almost exclusively on the NFL to sell officially licensed jerseys and other merchandise, says Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon.
“As the sophistication of the business has grown up over the years and athletes have been hammered on the idea that they’ve got to leverage their notoriety for a long term post-playing career career, it seems like we’re seeing more of it now than we ever have before,” says Swangard.
The merchandise allows players to build their own brands far beyond an official jersey with their name and number. Sherman’s line includes a variety of men’s and women’s wear featuring his trademark, “You Mad Bro?” and images of his now famous tip from the NFC championship game that sealed the Seahawks’ trip to the Super Bowl.
“Players are beginning to see the big picture outside of football,” says Branton Sherman, Richard’s big brother and manager of the family business.
“We’re just doing what we can to utilize the platform and take full advantage of it from a business standpoint so once he finishes playing the game he can possibly step into his own Fortune 500 company,” says Branton.
While players like Sherman or Russell Wilson have scored big dollar, national endorsement deals, far fewer opportunities are available for players like Chancellor, Thomas and others who don’t get the national spotlight, says Swangard. Going into business for themselves makes perfect sense.
“To be able to use the new vehicles to go direct to consumer and build that interest and that marketability directly is a testament to them being a little bit savvier,” says Swangard.
How much athletes can make make from their online ventures remains to be seen. Swangard says there’s no way to know how many people are actually buying Earl Thomas babywear for $24.95.
“The upside remains somewhat limited, but if you’re going direct to consumer and are able to generate more of that direct income stream, not have to pay party A or party B to do that, you’re going to maximize that opportunity,” he says.
Swangard says the biggest challenge for athletes taking business into their own hands is a lack of basic business acumen. Many don’t have any experience or knowledge, and far too many surround themselves with friends or associates who lack what he calls, “basic business 101.”
“I’ve seen a lot of athletes make really bad decisions about getting involved in businesses that really have nothing to do with them other than just a consumer seeing it’s really all about a money grab,” he says.
Branton Sherman agrees. He admits despite his business background, there was a steep learning curve as his brother began gaining celebrity status and the brothers began charting their own course.
“I was like a 3-year-old being thrown inside of 12 feet of water and asked to swim. I was forced to pretty much get out there and learn,” he says.
Now, along with managing the family business he’s also counseling younger players, sharing his hard-learned lessons.
“I try to preach to the young guys that you utilize your brand while you still have this NFL platform,” Branton says.
Along with building brand, Branton says Richard and other players also realize taking their businesses into their own hands allow them to promote their philanthropic endeavors as well, such as the Richard Sherman Family Foundation.
“We are so blessed,” he says. “We are committed to doing all we can. We are not just going to sit back and be content.”