Mud Pie.

Gift Shop Plus Spring 2024
Game-changers: Essential products for tailgates By Carly McFadden

Gourmet Grillers Garlic Chipotle Rub & Marinade. Country Home Creations.
Gourmet Grillers Garlic Chipotle Rub & Marinade. Country Home Creations.

Football is a cherished American tradition, and a tailgate is a quintessential part of the game day experience. After a transformative year for the NFL, even more fans are predicted to participate in the festivities.

NFL viewership soared 7% in the 2023 season, with regular-season games averaging 17.9 million viewers, according to ESPN. This is the second-highest average on record.

One demographic to credit for the higher viewerships: women. With the “Taylor Swift effect” acting as a catalyst, the NFL brought more young women into its fan base. The 2023 NFL viewership among teenage girls increased 53%; among women ages 18-24, viewership increased 24%.

“It’s no secret that a younger audience is looking to get more involved in the NFL fandom,” said Lauren Brekke, vice president of merchandise at Mud Pie. “We’re seeing that same trickle- down effect for college sports, too.”

Mad Man by Nicole Brayden Gifts.
Championship Beer Pong Set. Mad Man by Nicole Brayden Gifts.

As the demand for tailgating surges, products that elevate the tailgating experience are expected to do well in stores this year.


Snacks and beverages are a must-have before kickoff. Whether participating in a potluck near the game or hosting at home, serveware pieces that are both fun and easy to transport are in demand.

“The Hot Wings Platter Set that launched as part of this spring’s Circa Collection has been an instant favorite,” Brekke said. “It features sections for wings, celery, carrots and dipping sauces. Guacamole and salsa bowls tend to do very well with tailgating crowds.”

Color Box Design & Letterpress.
Football Charcuterie Cheat Sheet. Color Box Design & Letterpress.

Customers are also on the lookout for multifunctional gadgets that fulfill a variety of tailgating needs in one without the hassle.

“Our Deluxe Arc Spark Lighter, featuring a built-in bottle opener and flashlight, stands out by ensuring a safe and hassle-free fire in any weather,” said Keith Schwartz, president of Mad Man by Nicole Brayden Gifts. “The Grillmate 6-in-1 Detachable Multi-Tool is a must-have for any on-the-go grill master. Its compact design includes tongs, spatula, fork, knife, bottle opener and corkscrew, making it the perfect companion for outdoor grilling.”


Mad Man by Nicole Brayden Gifts.
Beerdolier. Mad Man by Nicole Brayden Gifts.

A tailgate is not just a means to watch the game — it’s a community celebration, Schwartz explained.

“The NFL’s growing popularity has definitely influenced the demand for tailgating products. Fans are seeking items that add fun and function to their game day experience,” he said. “We predict continued interest in portable gear. … Tailgating is becoming a social event in its own right, and we expect this trend to continue in the coming years.”

A bestseller for Mad Man is the Beerdolier, a wearable beer holder, because it “enables fans to keep their hands free for high-fives.”

When hosting a tailgate at home, the right setup is crucial in setting the tone and getting spirits high.


Shiraleah through Ivystone.
Go Sports! Sweatshirt and Ballcap. Spectator Crossbody. Shiraleah through Ivystone.

Women make up one of the NFL’s fastest-growing fanbases. Offering game day apparel and accessories will engage them further and enable them to watch the game in style.

Wholesaler Shiraleah, represented by Ivystone at Atlanta Market and Las Vegas Market, launched a game day women’s collection for the on-trend sports fan.

“Now more than ever, we are seeing broader fashion trends becoming applicable to the tailgate setting. Famous wives and girlfriends of team members are setting the bar for stylish game day looks,” said Joanna Klinedinst, marketing manager of Shiraleah. “Girls aren’t just wearing jerseys or a team T-shirt to games anymore; everyone wants to add a fashionable flair to their team spirit, whether that is in their clothing or with their accessories.”

Mud Pie.
Game Day Beaded Earrings. Mud Pie.

Shiraleah approaches tailgating style by offering a range of products that are versatile enough to be worn in multiple settings, such as the Spectator Crossbody Bag with interchangeable straps.

“Part of the massive success that the NFL found last year was by appealing to an audience outside of their existing fanbase,” Klinedinst said. “While the emphasis on team loyalty and the sports side are still relevant to NFL fans, the league has also found ways to incorporate pop culture trends that have a market appeal beyond their standard viewers. In the same way, our products appeal to the more stylish and fashionable sports fan, whose outfits are curated to match the occasion.”

Shiraleah through Ivystone.
Malena Reversible Puffer Wrap. Shiraleah through Ivystone.

Wholesaler Mud Pie also reintroduced its women’s game day collection for fall 2024, now including accessories.

“Tailgating and game day attire and gift had quieted down over the last several years, but we are thrilled that it has had a complete resurgence,” Brekke said. “For women, we are seeing headbands, earrings and other sport-appropriate accessories, as opposed to licensed, school-specific gear. There’s definitely more of an emphasis on school colors and mascots rather than the actual licensed logos.”

Brekke added that sequin sweatshirts and beaded accessories are trending in a big way, as “consumers want more fun, statement-making options to wear on game day.”

Noble Mick’s.
Bloody Mary Mix. Noble Mick’s.


Mad Man by Nicole Brayden Gifts.
Strap ‘N’ Go Bluetooth Speaker. Mad Man by Nicole Brayden Gifts.


Wildwood Landing.
Football MamaTea Towel. Wildwood Landing.




Carly McFadden

Carly McFadden is the editorial director of Gift Shop Plus, Stationery Trends and Lawn & Garden Retailer.

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