T-shirts, caps and towels touting the Indianapolis Colts as Super Bowl XLIV champions were boxed up and shipped Tuesday to a distribution center near Pittsburgh where they will be sorted for eventual delivery to Haiti.
There was a moment Sunday night, when the gear sat in four Reebok athletic bags on the Sun Life Stadium field. But when it became clear in the closing minutes of the game that the New Orleans Saints would be champions, the Colts' gear was returned to the "secret room" in the bowels of the stadium. The four bags of Saints gear was rushed onto the field at the end of the game and shared with victorious Saints players.
For years, the league would destroy the losers’ items after the game.
“We would literally incinerate it or shred it,” said David Krichavsky, NFL director of community affairs. “Then it dawned us, it probably wasn’t the best use because others around the world could use it.”
The NFL now designates the losers’ product for a new assignment. International relief organization World Vision has been sending the gear to needy populations in developing countries since 1994. Product is also collected from the retailers, such as Sports Authority, which order it to have on hand once the game is won.
World Vision typically receives about $2 million in donated NFL apparel from the Super Bowl and conference championship games, organization spokeswoman Karen Kartes said.
This year, the league and World Vision had chosen Haiti -- the poorest nation in the western hemisphere -- before the Jan. 12 earthquake rocked the country. In the next few months, as the post-earthquake needs in Haiti grow less critical, palettes of shirts and caps will make their way to the country.
Last year, Arizona Cardinals product went to El Salvador. Those New England Patriots 19-0 shirts and caps? To Nicaragua. In 2007, Chicago Bears’ merchandise went to Zambia. (See photos courtesy of World Vision).
The NFL gets a tax deduction and avoids putting the product into landfills.
“It helps us meet really critical needs,” Kartes said. “A lot of these children and families, literally haven’t had a new item of clothing in their lives. It’s really touching. They don’t care what’s written on it.”
Major League Baseball partnered with World Vision three years ago. “The Phillies merchandise started arriving in Indonesia in December,” Kartes said.
In all, World Vision, which works with 100 countries, takes in $400 million in donated corporate product each year, including the sports gear and pharmaceutical and school supplies, Kartes said.
Kartes said while the inaccurate product could end up somewhere that someone notices it, “the benefits outweigh the risks.”
But some wonder if it would make more sense to sell the inaccurate gear for big money -- like a collector's item -- and send the money to the needy countries instead. The leagues don't want incorrect gear floating around the United States, but the idea is an interesting one. Check out Dan Shanoff's "You Lost, They Win" concept here.