The potential innovation in Aramark’s retail partnership with the Alliance of American Football is a point of excitement for the concessionaire’s executives.
As the new football league kicks off its inaugural season this weekend with games in Orlando, San Antonio, Phoenix and Birmingham, an expansive array of retail merchandise will be on display, said Danielle Lazor, vice president of West region and national retail operations for Aramark’s sports and entertainment division.
The first games feature San Diego at San Antonio and Atlanta at Orlando, airing at 8 p.m. Saturday on CBS. The league-wide retail partnership was announced at the end of January, as Aramark will handle merchandising in all eight stadiums and ecommerce retail for the league.
“We understand the importance of providing seamless, enjoyable shopping experiences for fans, especially during the historic, inaugural season, and are committed to delivering that for the Alliance,” said Carl Mittleman, president of Aramark’s sports and entertainment division.
Discussions had been ongoing for some time, Lazor said, but the details came together rather quickly when it mattered most. The ecommerce retail sales have been active and better than anticipated, Lazor said.
“It has really exceeded our expectations and absolutely done a lot better,” she said. “There’s a lot of engagement, and the fan bases are building before our eyes.”
Lazor couldn’t speak to specific retail activations at the time, but said to expect some “fun things in the works” with the AAF.
“We’ll see them announced some activations in venues around merchandise soon,” she said. “The product line speaks for itself from a quality and fan perspective.”
Aramark has a long track record in retail operations, particularly around special events, with organizations like the National Football League and U.S. Tennis Association. Lazor said this deal is a bit special because of the league ownership of all eight teams.
The league’s aggressive technology commitment can provide Aramark further innovation on the retail side within the partnership.
“Innovation is at the forefront of what they do; it’s starting up and there’s a lot of work to do,” she said. “But innovation is built into the culture of the organization and it allows us to do something different from the product side. That will be ever-evolving as the teams and fan bases grow, but it’s a cornerstone to the partnership.”
Also along the lines of technological strategies for the AAF include free livestreams of the week’s games on the league’s app, as well as a robust option of integrated gaming options with real rewards. On the player side of the league, AAF offers a large bonus system and comprehensive post-football career planning.
The AAF was started by Charlie Ebersol and football Hall of Famer Bill Polian. The 10-week season will conclude with a championship weekend April 26-28 in Las Vegas.
Ebersol said in 2018 the league will feature high-quality football while also pushing the innovation in how sports leagues operate. The league’s partnership with Aramark is no different.
“We strive to continually provide fans with innovative and seamless opportunities to connect with the game, teams and players they love, and our partnership with Aramark is one way to achieve this goal,” said Ebersol, also the AAF’s CEO. “Aramark is a proven leader in the space, catering to millions of sports fans across major professional leagues and teams. By bringing on this best-in-class partner, we can drive innovation both on-site and at-home, elevating the fan experience, streamlining operations and driving sales.”