Super Bowl defeat has a ripple effect for business and lost income
Chris Wrenn recalls last year’s Super Bowl parade like a victor does his spoils. On Monday morning, the founder of the Sully’s Brand sportswear brand recounted wading through the hordes of fans at the 2017 festivities in order to toss one of his T-shirts at Tom Brady’s duck boat.
“It was an important mission,” he said. And one that paid off. The quarterback proudly displayed the shirt, with its “Roger That” slogan and an image of a fistful of Super Bowl rings, on the boat’s railing, where it was documented by hundreds of thousands of fans. The move translated to massive sales for Sully’s.
“That was good for business,” Wrenn said with a laugh.
This year, however, Wrenn is stuck with thousands of T-shirts stacked in his Peabody warehouse after the New England Patriots’ 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday. He was smart enough to hold off on printing anything until the final score was tallied, but he’s still feeling the pinch at having fronted the cost of the shirts in anticipation of a surge in Super Bowl sales.
“I don’t like to think about it,” he said. “I think we got one order on our website this morning. There would have been a thousand orders. It’s a pretty drastic swing.”
Throughout the region on Monday, local businesses were busy strategizing a game plan that didn’t involve post-Super Bowl sales. Many were fretting at the prospect of lost revenue: Restaurant owners along the would-be parade route grimaced at the thought of the beer-swilling crowds that could have been. Sportswear vendors lamented brilliant slogans left unprinted. Even tattoo parlors were left feeling stung.
“We’re wincing a bit,” said Louise Hammond, a receptionist at the Stingray tattoo parlor in Allston, which typically sees about a dozen customers come in to commemorate a Patriots’ win in the days following a pivotal game. “I do have an appointment booked for a TB12 tattoo tomorrow,” she said. “It’s a nonrefundable deposit, so we’ll see.”
The loss dramatically affects businesses along the parade route, said Brian Poe, a partner in the Parish Café, which sees sales surge at its Boylston Street location on parade days.
“We had intended to close for the week to do some renovations, but decided to cancel all of those plans in hopes of a parade,” he said. “Now we are doing a different kind of Super Bowl shuffle: covering shifts for staff that had already booked vacations and looking at those floors and walls we could have touched up if we had only known. I guess you could say we all dropped the ball on this one.”
Alex Bouren, manager of the Pour House on Boylston Street, said the hurt of a Patriots loss was magnified by the calls he had to make to vendors on Monday morning. He canceled his big beer orders and let his food distributors know that, alas, he would not be needing the anticipated extra chicken wings.
“On an average Tuesday or Wednesday, we have somewhere around 100 people who come in here over the course of three hours,” he said, but on a parade day, “we have that many lining up an hour before.”
For sportswear vendors, the impact can feel as dramatic as the game itself. Mahlon Williams, whose company I Love Boston Sports produces T-shirts and other Patriots-themed gear, was in the stands watching both the team and his financial windfall unravel on Sunday night. The brand is known for its renderings of athletes in iconic artworks — think a George Washington-esque Bill Belichick crossing the Charles River, or a version of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album cover featuring a barefoot Gronk.
This year, Williams spent about $5,000 to commission a illustration of Tom Brady as a “Big Game Hunter,” with the taxidermied heads of all of his defeated teams prominently as trophies. Instead of selling thousands of shirts, Williams released the image on social media, and was on the receiving end of the cancellation calls from vendors all morning, he said.
“They say, ‘If we win, we want a ton of product. But if we lose, don’t call me, we’ll call you.’ And that kind of stinks,” he said.
The economic ripples of a Super Bowl loss may be felt throughout the region, said Daniel Sargeant, a professor of sports management at Lasell College in Newton. Uber and Lyft drivers might have seen a surge in rides to the airport from sports fans looking to greet the team on the way home from Minneapolis or go to the parade.
“I’m sure a lot of overtime for police and security people who miss out,” he said.
There’s also a phenomenon economists refer to as psychic income — the notion that people are likely to spend more when they’re feeling bolstered by a win. And those good feelings can stretch beyond New England, where the good sentiments associated with a winning Boston team can often translate to increase tourism spending.
“It gets people around the country thinking Boston,” Sargeant said.
But other economists say the impact of a Super Bowl win — or loss, for that matter — is marginal at best.
Victor Matheson a professor of sports economics at the College of the Holy Cross, cited a 2002 study that demonstrated that the personal per-capita income of residents of a city with a winning Super Bowl team was higher by about $140 a year after the win. The researchers credited that income boost to the increased productivity of happier workers.
But while the findings were statistically significant enough for researchers to notice, Matheson said, they were not significant enough for anyone replicate the findings in the years since. That’s in part because any real economic wins for one company tend to be balanced out by losses elsewhere, he said. For example, the overall economic impact from the restaurants swarmed along the parade route are cancelled out by the fact that many other eateries are completely dead on parade day.
“It doesn’t increase the total amount of economic activity — it just shuffles it around a bit,” he said.
If anything, the sheer number of wins chalked up to Brady and Belichick make both the team and the city a bit more resilient to withstanding a Super Bowl loss, said Ben Shields, a lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Managment who teaches a course in the business of sports.
“For this Super Bowl in particular, the Patriots and the Greater Boston area were playing with house money,” he said.
“Even though they lost, the remarkable dynasty that the Patriots have built over the last 18 years has created a deep reservoir of economic and fan resilience.”
Williams, of I Love Boston Sports, echoed that sentiment. “I look at it like this: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You have to accept losses in the short term,” he said. His best-selling shirt, after all, is the slogan “New England vs. Everyone.” And that works whether they win or lose.