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Philadelphia Flooded with Pope Products

By Marcy Magiera
Updated Sept. 8, 2015

With less than three weeks until Pope Francis arrives on his first apostolic journey to the U.S., Philadelphia is reportedly becoming awash in papal products, both licensed and unlicensed. ‘Pope Rosary? Licensed. ‘Papal bobblehead? Licensed. ‘Pontiff wine glasses, Christmas ornaments, plush dolls, lifesize standees, etc.? All licensed. But anything that combines the likeness of the people’s pope with a cheesesteak, Rocky or the NFL’s Eagles? Not so much.

Licensed Products for the Papal Visit

Pope Francis is traveling to the U.S. for The World Meeting of Families–Philadelphia 2015, which appointed Aramark the official retail vendor of event merchandise tied to its congress and the papal visit. Aramark online offers more than 200 products from a wide variety of licensees, including Bleecher Creatures, Royal Bobbles, Lenox, Keystone Mint, Sacred Heart Toys, Nelson Gifts and Pediment. Products range from $5 prayer cards and foam can coolers to $200 semi-precious stone rosaries.

During the week of the pope’s visit (Sept. 22-27), Aramark will also sell at official retail locations inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center and around Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where Pope Francis on Sept. 27 will celebrate a public mass for an estimated 1 million people. In addition, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on its Web site offers guidelines for licensing official Papal Visit 2015 logos.

Licensed merchandise must compete with the unlicensed—which reportedly includes the “Pope Toaster” (yes,it burns his visage into bread), mozzarella cheese carved to resemble the Holy Father, Holy Wooder beer (say it with a Philly accent) and all manner of T-shirts pairing the pope with the city’s beloved cheesesteak sandwich, Eagles and movie boxer Rocky Balboa.

But licensing officials, like the pope himself, appear tolerant. “More is more in this case. This is a huge event. We probably couldn’t fulfill all of the merchandising needs,” Joan Doyle, a retail consultant for the World Meeting of Families told “I like to think that independents and locals will reap some of the benefits of the papal visit—hopefully with well-designed and appropriate products, but we don’t control that.”


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