Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Silver Lining for the Steeler Nation...By Lindsey Talerico, World Vision blog manager

A few years ago we drove up to a village community in Zambia...and were shocked by the site of kids and adults in the village wearing CHICAGO BEARS--SUPER BOWL CHAMPS t-shirts...we laughed, maybe cried a little bit as disappointed Bears fans, and loved seeing loss turned to gain in a part of the world where football means's a tradition I love...and hope to see gold and black in Zambia in the future on a trip there!

Maybe you were one of the 151 million people to watch the Green Bay Packers victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. If you’re not a sports fan, surely you still enjoyed the cheeseburger sliders, nachos, great commercials, and good time with friends and family.

Certainly, there is nothing quite like American football that can split a nation by team, and then bring us back together for one unforgettable championship game. But that’s not the only reason to love the power of the Super Bowl. Any production that bids 30-second ads at around $3 million each is worth tuning into — if not for the spectacular cinematography, then at least for a hardy laugh or two.

And while the Super Bowl is the Holy Grail of American sporting events, it’s also a source of hope and help to thousands of people around the world — which is one reason why World Vision loves it.

For the past 15 years, the National Football League has donated to World Vision its pre-printed championship merchandise bearing the name of the team that does not win the title. This means that right now, thousands of articles of merchandise, including t-shirts, sweatshirts, and ball caps, are being sorted by the NFL and retailers to be sent to World Vision.

Here’s how it works: The NFL pre-prints about 300 shirts and hats for both Super Bowl contenders for after the game. At the same time, retailers like Sports Authority, Dick’s, and Modell’s place their merchandise orders in advance according to the market location of their stores and the potential winning teams. Basically, a retailer in Green Bay, Wisconsin, would order the pre-printed Super Bowl Champion Packers gear the same way a retailer in Pittsburgh would buy pre-printed Super Bowl Champion Steelers gear. But a retailer in Florida might not order either contender’s pre-printed merchandise, because their market doesn’t have much of an interest in buying Super Bowl Champion gear for either team.

Once the gear is pre-printed, it is shipped from the printing center to the retailers’ distribution centers, where it is counted and distributed to individual stores. Once at the stores, staff members hold the gear until the winning team is determined, at which time shelves are stocked and gear is sold. This is where World Vision comes in.

At this point, all unused gear for the team that does not win is repackaged, shipped back to the retailer distribution centers, counted again, and donated to World Vision. As gear begins to arrive at World Vision’s international distribution center in Pittsburgh, as it will in the next couple of weeks, it is counted one more time and sorted by size, gender, and destination — meaning that a t-shirt might go to a country with a warm climate, like Nicaragua, and a sweatshirt to a country with a cold climate, like Mongolia.

World Vision identifies countries and communities in need overseas who will benefit from the gear. This year’s unused Super Bowl merchandise will make its way to Zambia, Armenia, Nicaragua, and Romania in the months to come. On average, this equates to about 100 pallets annually — $2 million worth of product — or about 100,000 articles of clothing that, instead of being destroyed, will help children and adults in need.

That’s 100,000 reasons to love the Super Bowl even more.

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