It’s the Zeke and Dak Show

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS -

Here’s more proof that the 2016 sea­son was a su­perb one for rook­ies: Ezekiel El­liott and Dak Prescott topped Na­tional Foot­ball League player mer­chan­dise and prod­ucts sales. The Dal­las Cow­boys run­ning back who led the league in rush­ing and the quar­ter­back who was the Of­fen­sive Rookie of the Year rep­re­sent the first time two rook­ies led the list com­piled by the NFL Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion. The list is based on to­tal sales of of­fi­cially li­censed NFL player mer­chan­dise, track­ing year-end re­sults from March 1, 2016, through Feb. 28, 2017. “It’s pretty hum­bling,” El­liott said. “When you’re a rookie, you’re just look­ing to put your head down, help the team and learn the ropes. To ac­com­plish this level of suc­cess off the field shows just how pas­sion­ate foot­ball fans are in Dal­las, in Ohio, my home state of Mis­souri, and all around the world. And to be up there with Dak and Dez (Bryant), along­side great play­ers like Tom Brady and Odell Beck­ham, is very spe­cial to me.” Su­per Bowl MVP Brady was third on the list after hold­ing the top spot for much of the mea­sur­ing pe­riod. He was fol­lowed by yet an­other Cow­boy, re­ceiver Bryant, and Giants wide­out Beck­ham Jr. Brady vinyl fig­ures were the most pop­u­lar among those items, and he also led in plush dolls, player-iden­ti­fied kids T-shirts and jer­seys. An­other rookie, Ea­gles quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz was sev­enth over­all but tops in bob­ble­head sales. NFL Play­ers Inc., the mar­ket­ing arm of the union, com­piled the list, which is based on over­all sales of all NFL player li­censed prod­ucts via on­line and tra­di­tional re­tail out­lets as re­ported by more than 80 NFLPA li­censees. Among the prod­uct cat­e­gories are men’s, women’s and youth game jer­seys and Tshirts; wall de­cals; fig­urines; toys; mat­ted and framed photos; vinyl col­lectibles; bob­ble­heads; ugly sweaters; plush dolls; drinkware; socks; mo­bile gaming; vir­tual goods; hol­i­day or­na­ments and nov­el­ties. NFL Play­ers Inc. said li­censees gen­er­ated re­tail sales ex­ceed­ing $1.6 bil­lion dur­ing the year. “It is pretty im­pres­sive on both of their parts and the parts of their fan base,” said Steven Sce­belo, vice-pres­i­dent li­cens­ing and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment for NFL Play­ers Inc. “I was sur­prised be­cause in the third (busi­ness) quar­ter, Tom Brady was in first place, and after that quar­ter closed he went on to win the Su­per Bowl and Su­per Bowl MVP. I kind of ex­pected when we ran the num­bers, he would be No. 1. So when it was Zeke and Dak, that was just a tes­ta­ment to what they were able to do on the field and their fan base did off the field.” Sce­belo cred­its some of El­liott’s pop­u­lar­ity to the strong de­vo­tion of Ohio State fans to their play­ers when they head to the pros. He also notes that, un­like in past decades when team al­le­giance was of­ten a de­cid­ing fac­tor, many con­sumer de­ci­sions are driven by some­thing else when it comes to the NFL. “If you look at younger fans and the way they fol­low the game now and how they en­gage fan­tasy foot­ball,” Sce­belo said, “even those who are not fans of the Cow­boys are more prone to buy some­thing of a player who is on their fan­tasy team. They have more al­le­giance to those play­ers who are be­com­ing stars, not nec­es­sar­ily to play­ers from spe­cific teams.” One player to look for as a mer­chan­diz­ing gold mine next sea­son could be Mar­shawn Lynch. The run­ning back known as “Beast Mode” sat out 2016 in a short re­tire­ment, and was dealt by Seat­tle to Oak­land last month. He was top 10 on the sales charts while with the Sea­hawks, and with the na­tional pop­u­lar­ity of the Raiders, Lynch eas­ily could be up there again if he fol­lows through on his return. “It is all the at­tributes of a player that drive (sales),” Sce­belo said. “Peo­ple iden­tify with the num­ber, the sig­na­ture, the nick­name.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Dak Prescott, left, and Ezekiel El­liott topped NFL player mer­chan­dise and prod­uct sales.

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