As part of a new collegiate co-brand licensing program launched by the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) via its marketing and licensing arm, NFL Players Inc., Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback and former Oregon star Marcus Mariota ranks atop the NFLPA’s list of best-selling NFL players among collegiate co-branded merchandise.

The list includes products such as collegiate jerseys from Fanatics, as well as hardlines from Fathead and Oyo Sportstoys. NFLPA licensees, retailers and football fans nationwide all benefit from this new line of business.

Here’s a look at the Top 10 players from March 1, 2015 to date:

  1. Marcus Mariota (Oregon)
  2. Tom Brady (Michigan)
  3. Peyton Manning (Tennessee)
  4. J.J. Watt (Wisconsin)
  5. Cam Newton (Auburn)
  6. Russell Wilson (Wisconsin)
  7. Jameis Winston (Florida State)
  8. Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)
  9. Denard Robinson (Michigan)
  10. Sammy Watkins (Clemson)

Player Polularity Endures
This emerging sector of the licensing business is being fueled by the players’ enduring popularity among fans across the nation long after they leave campus. Brands that leverage the popularity of incoming future NFL stars also are enjoying successful results. Case in point, Mariota and Winston rank among the overall best sellers on the NFLPA Top 50 Player Sales list, which includes sales of all licensed products from more than 80 licensees.

Products featuring NFL players are experiencing record sales nationally. And through the collegiate co-brand program, the NFLPA is connecting players with fans in ways that can bring licensed merchandise to life in new and different ways. As a result, licensing partners can sell collegiate co-branded product that not only creates revenue opportunities with new customers, but enhances the connection between players and their most ardent fans — in and out of season.

As companies of all sizes look for ways to generate incremental NFL player product sales around the calendar, the NFLPA’s program allows for the development of products that feature incoming rookies in their college uniforms. After playing their final college games, draft-eligible players sign an NFLPA group licensing assignment. NFLPA-licensed partners that have secured collegiate rights can pair draft-eligible likenesses with collegiate marks as early as the NFL Combine. Thus, players such as Jared Goff (University of Cal-Berkeley), Paxton Lynch (University of Memphis), Ezekiel Elliot (Ohio State University), Laquon Treadwell (University of Mississippi) and Derrick Henry (University of Alabama) may be featured on NFL player-collegiate co-branded products as soon as spring 2016.

Licensees Leading the Charge
During this year’s Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show (SLTS), the NFLPA and The Brandr Group, its agency of record to exclusively represent NFL player group licensing rights across all categories for collegiate co-brand licensing and sponsorship opportunities, are highlighting collegiate co-branded products across the hardlines and digital categories.

Leading the way for the new line of business is exclusive NFLPA trading card licensee Panini America, which has released new trading card sets featuring NFL players in their college uniforms, and the demand is hot.

Looking forward to a new selling season, it’s evident that the collegiate co-brand business has grown beyond trading cards. NFLPA co-branded partners that will be highlighted at the 2016 SLTS include Aminco, Fathead, Forever Collectibles and Wincraft. Additionally, attendees will have a preview of collectible mini-figurines from Oyo Sportstoys, posters and wall art by Team Spirit Store, as well as tailgating cornhole boards from Victory Tailgate and Wild Sports that will be set up on Sunday in the Sports Lounge for attendees to play games with an active NFL player.

Football is an integral part of our culture and economy at the collegiate and professional levels, and the game and its players are as popular as ever. It is no surprise that a first-year player like Mariota is competing with the most popular players in the NFL in terms of collegiate player retail sales. Where there is passion there is demand.

With a new group of marketable players only a few months away from launching their professional careers, combined with an intriguing list of longtime stars who are as popular now as they were during college, the NFLPA’s collegiate co-branded program is primed for growth in 2016 and beyond. It can provide licensing and retail partners with tools to tap into this incredible passion for players and school pride — turning that appetite into sales opportunities and stronger customer loyalty.