You might’ve noticed that the Cincinnati Bengals had an outright abysmal season last year. How bad was it? Well, consider the fact that the team’s biggest personnel success may have been running back Cedric Benson, a Bears re-tread who was arrested for fighting cops after boating while intoxicated, and you can start to understand why fans were a bit restless. Of an equally large concern to team management, however, is that their once hot-selling, Halloweenish jungle costume uniforms performed equally horrendously, making up only two percent of all NFL gear sold. Two percent.
(Sales of linebacker Hank We Stinks jerseys were particularly poor.)
Yet that in itself might not even be the biggest surprise from this story in the CINCINNATI BUSINESS COURIER. What is? That the team sold a whopping $108 million in 2007. Yes, the Bengals sold enough tiger stripes to rake in $108 million, which is an astonishing amount when you consider that they weren’t exactly great in ‘07 either. Still, 2008 was a reminder that people love winners, with the overall Cincinnati merchandise sales falling 40 percent.
The decreased figures are also interesting because, in essence, they prove that Chad Johnson’s promotional “Ocho Cinco” stunt didn’t work at all. Or, at the very least, it didn’t work well enough to convince a bunch of folks to buy jerseys with a stuntish, temporary last name on the back of it (Hey! Now it’s a collector’s item!)
If you work out the math, you end up with a total Bengals sales figure of $64 million for 2008, which is still nothing to shake a stick at. But it’s no $108 million, either. Also unclear: Whether that includes sales of promotional calendars and videos of the Ben-gals. Either way, we’re probably not going to see kids in Ethiopia rolling around in “Palmer” jerseys anytime soon, even though there are now twice as many of them to sell, with Palmer the younger (Jordan) sitting on the bench behind Carson.
So, will Bengals gear make a comeback in 2009? That may depend entirely on the team. If Marvin Lewis somehow resurrects a winner, the stripey gear might start flowing in the streets again. If the Bengals stink, it’ll probably rot away on the shelves. Of course, all of this also assumes that the team’s name-worthy stars stay out of trouble, which is an awfully big assumption to make, given recent seasons.
Either way, someone will buy it, or wear it for free. It’s always struck us that gangs were really blowing a golden opportunity to use Cinci gear as their crew’s trademark. After all, the Bengals have stripes, the predominant color is a nice, dark black and they’re uniforms are already worn by criminals. That has to be worth some street credibility, right?