The name Washington Commanders might have been met with mixed reaction. But the merchandise flying off the shelves in the wake of Washington’s recent rebrand appears to tell a different story.
After rebranding from the “Washington Football Team” to the Commanders, the demand is there for Washington’s new gear. Last Wednesday, the day of the name change, the Commanders had the top four selling items on Fanatics’ website. And according to the apparel company, Washington had its best-selling day in team history on Fanatics — including the Redskins and Football Team era.
On Sunday, multiple Commanders items still were listed as bestsellers — from T-shirts to jerseys to hats.
Fanatics, of course, isn’t the only retailer selling Commanders gear. But as the NFL’s official online store — they power NFLShop.com — they’re a strong indicator of how the merchandise is being received. And on Wednesday, the company announced that the Commanders led that day’s sales across all sports.
Despite the seemingly high sales, there have been a few bumps in Washington’s rollout of merchandise. For instance, when Washington’s own retail shop opened for fans the day of the announcement, the FedEx Field store did not have any current Commanders jerseys on hand — they were on back order — with the gear not expected to ship until mid-May.
And Washington appears to only be selling the Commanders’ burgundy-colored jerseys at the moment. The white and black sets are not yet sold on the Fanatics’ website or in the NFLShop.
“Still waiting on @Commanders @Fanatics and the @NFL to make the white and black Commanders jerseys available,” one fan, HiJack Gaming, tweeted. “I’m trying to buy like 5 jerseys c’mon fam.”
The team reportedly experienced delays because of the pandemic. The length of wait, too, depends on the item. Fan George Carmi tweeted a picture that included four pieces of merchandise — two of which were expected to arrive Feb. 22, while others (a hat and a mini helmet) would arrive March 7 (the hat) and June 20 (the helmet).
For those who want it, there is plenty of gear to choose from. The Washington Times counted more than 150 Commander-themed items on Fanatics’ website, apparel that included an “Authentic Sublimated Horizontal Team Logo Plague” ($29) and an “Authentic Frame Fan Cave Collage” ($59.99).
Of the four Commanders items that led Wednesday’s sales, a charcoal-colored Commanders’ pullover hoodie was the best seller. Behind it was a Terry McLaurin Commanders jersey, a black Commanders long-sleeve T-shirt and a Chase Young Commanders jersey.
The fifth highest-selling product that day? A red Tom Brady Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey. Brady retired a day earlier.
In addition to the team selling Commanders gear online and in stores, the team’s marketing department also tried to generate buzz by driving around the District in burgundy-and-gold-colored Teslas to hand out free merchandise to fans. The team also hosted a “Park and Party” event at FedEx Field on Friday in which fans got a grab-bag of merchandise for showing up.
“I never spent a single cent on #WashingtonFootball merch,” tweeted fan Adam Myrick. “It was a generic, placeholder name that probably should’ve never existed. I’m already about $60 in on @Commanders merch and couldn’t be happier.”
Speaking at the Economic Club last Thursday, Commanders President Jason Wright acknowledged that the Commanders moniker wasn’t a huge hit locally. But he seemed pleased with the overall response.
“The context is 80% of those fans didn’t want the name to change in the first place,” Wright said. “Irrespective of what I think or what other people think, that’s their starting point. I am happy that the rollout was professional, that it was of the magnitude of what we sought out to do and that they understand clearly why we landed where landed, even if they didn’t like it the most.”
• Matthew Paras can be reached at email@example.com.
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