What Happens to the Losing Team's Pre-Printed Championship Shirts?
Following a big win in the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals, or any other major sporting event, fans want to get their hands on championship merchandise as quickly as possible. To meet this demand and cash in on the wallet-loosening "We’re #1" euphoria, manufacturers and retailers produce and stock two sets of T-shirts, hats and other merchandise that declare each team the champ.
Apparel for the winning team quickly fills clothing racks and gets tossed to players on the field. But what happens to the losing team's clothing?
Depending on the outcome of Game 7 Wednesday evening, boxes of shirts erroneously emblazoned with either the Houston Astros's or Los Angeles Dodgers's logos and "World Series Champions" proclamations are destined for charity. "We donate the product," Matt Bourne, vice president of business public relations for Major League Baseball, tells Mental Floss.
Donating to the disadvantaged is par for the course for most of the major sports leagues, although MLB briefly changed their policy up in 2016 and ordered the losing team's apparel destroyed after concerns it might find its way into the secondary market.
Bourne didn't elaborate on why MLB returned to its previous protocol, but it may have something to do with the sheer volume of usable clothing generated by having to anticipate two possible outcomes. Based on strong sales after the Chicago Bears’s 2007 NFC Championship win, for example, Sports Authority printed more than 15,000 shirts proclaiming a Bears Super Bowl victory well before the game even started. And then the Colts beat the Bears, 29-17.
For almost two decades, an international humanitarian aid group called World Vision collected the unwanted items for MLB and NFL runners-up at its distribution center in Pittsburgh, then shipped them overseas to people living in disaster areas and impoverished nations. After losing Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, Arizona Cardinals gear was sent to children and families in El Salvador. In 2010, after the New Orleans Saints defeated Indianapolis, the Colts gear printed up for Super Bowl XLIV was sent to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
In 2011, after Pittsburgh lost to the Green Bay Packers, the Steelers Super Bowl apparel went to Zambia, Armenia, Nicaragua, and Romania.
Beginning in 2015, after 19 years with World Vision, the NFL started working with Good360. After New England defeated Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX, Seahawks gear was distributed in Azerbaijan and Georgia.
— Kristen Drew (@KDrewKOMO) February 2, 2015
In 2016, Good360 chief marketing officer Shari Rudolph told Mental Floss that details about the products available for donation will be sent to Good360 about a week after the Super Bowl ends. They'll notify their nonprofit partners and determine who needs what. Beginning this year, Good360 will also handle the discarded MLB clothing.
"Once they request the product, it is shipped to a domestic location and stored within their facilities until they have enough product (through Good360 and other sources) to fill a container," Rudolph said. "Then it is shipped overseas and distributed to people in need."
Fans of the World Series team that comes up short can take heart: At least the spoils of losing will go to a worthy cause.
An earlier version of this story appeared in 2009. Additional reporting by Jake Rossen.
All images courtesy of World Vision, unless otherwise noted.