How 7 NBA Teams Optimized Retail Sales of Their ‘City Edition’ Jerseys
Seven National Basketball Association (NBA) teams recently partnered with Rank + Rally, a company that has curated on-site pop-up fan experience shops and custom retail strategies for professional sports league teams, for the release of their City Edition jerseys. In this interview with Catherine Cronin, president of Rank + Rally, she discusses the the company's work in support of the release and sale of the teams’ City Edition jerseys, as well as offers her insights into the future of sports retail.
Total Retail: Tell us about Rank + Rally's work with teams across the four major sports leagues to improve their retail strategies for selling team and collectible merchandise.
Catherine Cronin: Rank + Rally thrives by having roots in our partners’ communities. We have a wide portfolio, but we empower our brick-and-mortar retail and e-commerce leaders in each location to make decisions they know will deliver value for their fans and guests. Each fan base is different. That means we need to transform stores into brand hubs that establish a connection to each team’s spirit and traditions. We hire buyers locally to curate more products and designs grounded in the community. Furthermore, we tap into resources from our parent company, Levy, and sister, E15 Group, which handle food and beverage, as well as analytics and technology for major franchises across all major sports in North America, including every one of our retail partners.
TR: How is Rank + Rally working with NBA teams to help launch the sale of their "city edition" jerseys? Which teams is Rank + Rally working with?
CC: Rank + Rally works with seven NBA partners: Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Portland Trailblazers.
City Edition is a unique case for a few reasons. It’s a limited-edition product, but we had significant lead time between when designs were unveiled and when products were made available for purchase. Also, most of the stores we operate are located in arenas and don’t always follow traditional brick-and-mortar retail hours. We focused on helping our teams create comprehensive e-commerce strategies to engage fans as close to the official launch moment as possible, as well as planned in-store events to build excitement. We’ve already seen spikes in e-commerce sales, and in some cases the City Edition has nearly generated as much revenue as all retail sales from last season.
TR: How do these new jerseys provide a glimpse into the future of sports retail?
CC: The City Edition jerseys represent the future of sports retail in a few ways. First, core fans crave products that spark a sense of connectivity and deeper connection to their team. Second, athleisure continues to grow, and casual sports fans and even general consumers are more open to sports-driven fashion than ever before. This year, you’re seeing teams tap into those trends and use City Edition designs to differentiate their brand. Each team has a cool and truly unique scheme, but the Prince- and Notorious B.I.G.-inspired designs from the Timberwolves and Nets, respectively, are good examples of marketing to a wider audience. Those designs resonate on a broader cultural wavelength and are very popular globally.
TR: What are the challenges associated with selling a limited-time, collectible jersey that has mass appeal?
CC: Proper planning and marketing are the keys to limited-edition and collectible sales. We have to know who is going to be in line before the products drop, and what sizes, colors, and player numbers they want. We also need to clearly communicate product attributes and positioning in marketing. Doing this both alleviates any potential fan frustration when limited edition product inventory runs low or sells out, and allows us to balance supply on the back end to keep up with consumer demand.
TR: How do physical stores factor into the sale of City Edition jerseys? How are the markets chosen?
CC: People want to touch and see products like the City Edition jerseys in person. You just don’t get the same feel online. And the fact that many of our stores are in the actual arenas is a big bonus. Being so close to the teams and games creates buzz. E-commerce and social media help us get the word out and drive fans in-store, which in turn sustains demand. When more people visit the store, we see second and third sales through e-commerce.
TR: What sales results can you provide for the teams that Rank + Rally has worked with on the City Edition jerseys?
CC: We can’t share actual dollars, but we're seeing significant sales spikes both in-store and online across all seven team partners.
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