The World Series starts tonight. While everyone in Chicago is focused on the prospect of the Cubs winning the Series, that is not a certainty. The one thing that is certain is that someone is going to lose – and that raises the prospect of a Cub or Chief Wahoo on t-shirt proclaiming that a team won something that they didn’t.
So what happens to t-shirts and other tchotchkes celebrating events that never happened? That was the topic of a recent Chicago Tribune story (Where do losing baseball teams’ postseason T-shirts end up?, October 18). The article itself is a little confused (it very much seems that a paragraph was dropped) but it does layout some options:
Last year, VF Licensed Sports Group required customers who wanted early access to merchandise celebrating a baseball team’s postseason run agree to ship any merchandise with a losing team’s 2015 MLB postseason clinch logos, images or graphics to international nonprofit World Vision. Customers had 24 hours following a loss to get in touch with World Vision to start the donation process, according to a 2015 agreement provided by a retailer. …
Another retailer was sent a revised agreement that replaced the donation requirement with a mandate to ship any items for losing teams back for destruction. …
Retailers who violate an agreement not to sell, advertise or promote the losing team’s merchandise agree to pay $100,000 per breach, according to the 2016 World Series preprinted merchandise agreement.
Now, in a perfect world, you don’t produce t-shirts for the losing team. As we have discussed a few weeks ago, that can be managed by having contracts that balance the risk between suppliers and retailers. Suppliers don’t get a green light to print t-shirts until a team has won several games in the Series. That, of course, does not eliminate problems. Some TV execs might be hoping that Cleveland can push Chicago to the limit – a seventh game would be ratings gold – but that also means that merchandise has to be produced for both teams if the winner’s fans are going to be able to buy keepsakes the day after the game.
I can see why VF Licensed Sports Group, as an agent for MLB, wants to keep loser merchandise out of the market. I can’t imagine that any team wants to have fans reminded of what could have been. But why shred over donate? I can only think of two reasons. First, it might be easier to track compliance if everything comes back to VF Licensed Sports Group. But VF could still donate it all directly. The other consideration is politics. Their charity partner has run into some bad press this and it may just be easier to shred shirts than be exposed to the risk that one’s partner tarnishes one’s name.