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Inside Slant: You aren't Nike's target market

April, 9, 2014
Apr 9
3:00
PM ET
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News: Nike raises prices on two of its three replica NFL jersey styles. The most expensive version now costs $295.

Reaction A: Greedy pigs!

Reaction B: Good. An adult who wears a sports jersey deserves to be gouged.

Reaction C: Basic economics. Supply and demand. Nike knows people will buy them.

Reaction D: Has anyone heard the term "replica"?

That sums up the views I heard during an impromptu Twitter chat Wednesday morning, a sample of which is included at the bottom of this post.

SportsNation

Will Nike's decision to raise prices of NFL jerseys change your buying habits?

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    71%
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    24%
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    5%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,895)

Some blamed a corporate behemoth for further distancing its pricing from the presumably average consumer. Others suggested Nike, which doesn't care who buys its jerseys as long as they are bought, must feel confident in its market projections. A few wondered why grown men and women feel compelled to wear game-style jerseys, and many pointed toward the robust counterfeit -- er, "replica" -- market as an increasingly attractive alternative.

I'm no economic genius, but this story seems to reinforce that Nike isn't producing these jerseys for you, the average American consumer. They are for the highest levels of our economic stratosphere -- the people who were already happily spending $100, $135 or $250 on official NFL jerseys and won't care or notice an increase of $15 for the middle version or $45 on the premium one.

The rest of us -- I mean, you -- already know how to find much less expensive options. They are of different aesthetic appeal, and probably lower quality, but quench the interest of most people who want to wear them. I can't quantify how many of you share that view, but I laughed when the first autosuggestion on my "NFL jersey" Google search was "NFL Jersey China," from where alternative jerseys might or might not be available.

What can we say about a league that partners with a company that prices key memorabilia beyond the range of so many customers?

Among other things, we are reminded the NFL isn't necessarily targeting you for many of its products, including memorabilia and on game day. As with jerseys, the prices for tickets, parking and food have outgrown the reasonable reach of the majority of NFL fans. According to Team Marketing Report, it cost an average of $459.65 to buy four tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four programs and two adult adjustable caps at an NFL game last season.

Those prices are responsibly reserved for the financially elite. For the rest of us, the NFL is a television product, free on Sundays but requiring a cable subscription on Monday and some Thursday nights.

Think of it in terms of the airline industry. Nike and the NFL have created a first-class level of customer, based largely on what coach used to be. When you think of it that way, when you realize that you are no longer the market target for the traditional NFL experience, a $295 jersey makes more sense. It's the rubber chicken you used to get in coach, only at the price of filet mignon. Bon appétit!

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