The championship game has just ended. Now it’s time for a commercial break before the network is back with team interviews. By the time you return from the kitchen, the winning team is all over the field dressed in custom-made T-shirts and ball caps. You suddenly realize the shirts and hats had to have been produced long before the game was played. So what happened to the apparel produced for the losing team?
Professional sports leagues have figured out the value of instant merchandising. They know that fans will be ready to scarf up whatever merchandise they can get their hands on in the immediate aftermath of a championship game. So what did they do? They order all sorts of apparel and souvenirs declaring both teams the winner, well in advance of the event. That way they have the right merchandise no matter who wins.
The obvious benefits of this sort of planning are counteracted by an equally obvious disadvantage: they are left with all that stuff declaring the other team the winner. What happens to that stuff? It goes to charity.
Imagine you are a volunteer working for an overseas charity. The region you are working in is devastated by some sort of natural disaster just weeks before the big game. People desperately need food, clothing, and medicine. You know what’s coming from past experience.
Three weeks later you are standing in front of the mirror and laughing over the fact that your new T-shirt declares the wrong champion. You are wearing one of the T-shirts printed for the losing team. It couldn’t be sold in the States, so it was donated to a charitable organization that shipped it to your area along with tons of additional clothing and food.
California’s Five Dollar T-Shirts says that the donated clothing is the real deal. It was ordered and paid for by the league and its teams. So yes, you are getting a high-quality T-shirt that would have otherwise been sold to a fan had the losing team actually won the game.
How It All Works
Mental Floss contributor Matt Soniak described how it all works in a pair of articles published in 2019 and 2020. He explained how the NFL produces apparel for both teams in the weeks prior to the league championship. Following the game, apparel produced for the losing team goes to a charity known as Good360.
Good360 stores the apparel in its facilities until a need arises. Sometimes needs exist before the game is even played, so officials at the charity already have plans for the clothing when it arrives at their facility. Good360 packs it all up and ships it to its destination.
Prior to Good360 getting the contract for distributing excess sports apparel, it was donated to an international relief organization known as World Vision. They essentially did the same thing. They collected unusable sports merchandise, stored it in their facilities, and donated overseas when needs arose.
Soniak says that over the years, donated clothing has gone to El Salvador, Haiti, Armenia, Nicaragua, Romania, and Zambia. It is a safe bet that there are many more countries not covered in his post. Wherever disaster relief efforts are underway, donated clothing is a welcome gift.
At some point, pro sports are going to resume. That means championship games will be played and winners will be adorned in championship T-shirts and hats. Take comfort in the fact that your team losing means all of the gear produced for them and their fans will go to a worthy cause.