Co-branded merchandise partnership is most extensive of its kind for NFL

The Rolling Stones have historically been a savvy marketing machine, churning out creative lines of merchandise over the course of their 57-year run as “The World’s Greatest Rock ’n’ Roll Band.”

Their current No Filter tour of North America is no exception.

A vendor points to some of the NFL-Rolling Stones co-branded merchandise by Bravado at the Stones’ Soldier Field concert June 21 in Chicago. (Don Muret / staff)

Bravado, the Stones’ exclusive brand management and merchandising vendor and part of Universal Music Group, signed a short-term deal with the NFL to sell co-branded tour T-shirts and fashion football jerseys. The tour includes stops at 13 NFL stadiums this summer, and the merchandise will carry the official marks and colors of teams in each of those markets as well as the Stones’ iconic lips-and-tongue logo. 

Both items are available at retail stands inside the stadiums and merchandise trailers outside the venues, plus the Rolling Stones store on the band’s official e-commerce site.

The agreement extends to the remainder of the 31 NFL teams served by NFL Properties, the league’s licensing arm. The exception is the Dallas Cowboys, which run their own apparel licensing operation, said Nicole Pozzi, the NFL’s director of consumer products. For those teams that don’t have the Stones booked at their stadiums, the co-branded merchandise will be on the Stones’ commerce site soon and remain available through September, Pozzi said.

The co-branded items aren’t available on NFLshop.com. Fanatics runs the league’s online merchandise and does not have a deal with Bravado, Pozzi said. Teams could potentially carry the merchandise at their stadiums, but those details have not been completed, she said.

The co-branded T-shirts sell for $50. The jerseys cost $100, which is $25 less than the price at the first few shows of the tour, including the June 21 opener at Soldier Field in Chicago. The price reduction was a market-based decision, starting July 19 in Jacksonville, and it remains in effect for the rest of the tour, said Christine Buckley, Bravado’s vice president of global brand management.

For the Stones’ shows Aug. 1 and 5 at MetLife Stadium, a two-NFL team building, the items are available in both the New York Jets’ and New York Giants’ colors and logos, Bravado CEO Mat Vlasic said.

Bravado officials declined to disclose sales numbers midway through the tour. 

The Stones aren’t the first rock band to sign a co-branded retail deal with the NFL. The Who did some co-branded apparel with the NFL tied to their 2010 Super Bowl halftime appearance, Pozzi said. More recently, Paul McCartney sold co-branded product for his June 8 concert at Lambeau Field, where the Green Bay Packers play. 

The Stones-NFL partnership, though, is the most extensive agreement of its kind with the league for co-branded merchandise, Pozzi said. It made sense, considering that close to half of the NFL’s stadiums are on the route, she said.

“It’s a really valuable test,” Pozzi said. “We’re going to closely monitor sales of the program and social (media) sentiment around it and that will (dictate) future opportunities to work with other concert tours.”

Vlasic came up with the idea after discovering the route was mostly NFL venues, and he approached the league about collaborating on co-branded apparel. Bravado did something similar during their 2018 tour overseas, partnering with a few European soccer teams on co-branded items, including France’s Paris Saint-Germain.

Bravado has produced co-branded merchandise for The Weeknd with Marvel comics and the late rapper Tupac Shakur with the “Black Panther” motion picture. Bravado’s artist roster includes Lady Gaga, Guns N’ Roses, Elton John, Justin Bieber and Imagine Dragons among its 200 clients.

For the Stones, Bravado typically produces market-specific tour apparel depending on the show, and the NFL agreement falls in line with that theme. There’s only so much Stones’ logo merchandise that diehard fans can buy before they search for something else, Vlasic said. Plus, the band’s  audience now consists of multigenerational families attending concerts, giving Bravado the opportunity to reach a variety of consumers across most age groups.

The same reach holds true for the NFL’s fan base, Pozzi said.  

“When we think merchandising for the Stones, it’s about how can we make a product that everybody wants?” Vlasic said. “Everything we do with the Stones is about authenticity and what’s right for their brand and everything they stand for. It made no sense to not do it in the most official and innovative way and partner with the NFL.”

The deal took a little longer than anticipated to complete after the Stones’ tour was postponed for two months because of Mick Jagger’s health issues. From start to finish, it took about three months to get done, Pozzi said.  

“It was quite a long dance,” Vlasic said. “It’s a little bit tricky because you have to split the pie (among the Stones, the NFL and the teams). We got it done. It’s more a product for the fans than a powerhouse item.”

Overall, the Stones remain a powerhouse draw, according to Pollstar’s Hot Tickets data. The first two dates at Soldier Field grossed $21.7 million with more than 98,000 tickets sold. Gillette Stadium grossed $11.7 million from a show that drew about 50,000, followed by FedEx Field’s $9.26 million gross with 39,000 tickets sold.

The 2019 No Filter tour concludes Aug. 31 at Hard Rock Stadium near Miami.