You can now buy NFL jerseys by using emojis

With the iOS 10 update, brands like Disney and Burger King all have created their branded iMessage stickers. But online retailer of licensed sportswear Fanatics — in collaboration with the National Football League Players Association — is going further with shoppable emojis on Apple Messages.

The retailer has 21 football player emojis up and running at the moment — including Eli Manning, Colin Kaepernick and Clay Matthews — with more to come. Once you download the Fanatics NFL Shop app and turn it on within Messages, all of the player emojis will automatically appear in the app section.

When you tap on the Greg Olsen emoji (left), you will be directed to the Fanatics NFL Shop app (right) where you can purchase a t-shirt featuring the same emoji.
When you tap on the Greg Olsen emoji (left), you will be directed to the Fanatics NFL Shop app (right) where you can purchase a t-shirt featuring the same emoji.

When you or the recipient of your emoji taps on the image, you will be immediately taken to the Fanatics NFL Shop app where you can purchase a t-shirt featuring the same emoji. But if you don’t install the Fanatics NFL Shop app in the first place, you will be directed to App Store. It’s not exactly seamless.

Most work was done in-house by the app, brand and product development teams at Fanatics in six weeks, according to Nate Lyman, the company’s senior director of mobile engineering. This makes sense for Fanatics because in general, half of its sales come from mobile and when a championship takes place, mobile can drive up to 80 percent of the company’s sales around a specific team, Lyman explained.

“Sports fans are really passionate about their teams and players. The problem to solve here is how to connect them with the new iOS platform,” he said.

Brands are using emojis more than ever, but many are struggling to figure out the ROI of those stickers. Lyman doesn’t consider measurement a big issue because the Fanatics NFL Shop is already a well-established platform. “There are many metrics we can look at including engagement, conversion and click-through rate, just like any other e-commerce interactions,” he said. “At the end of the day, we just want sports fans to have fun.”

Fanatics is going to roll out more NFL player emojis over the coming weeks. The retailer is selling licensed products for more than 300 leagues, teams and events, so it is looking to bring this emoji integration outside of football.