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SEATTLE – Success has not made the 12th Man soft. A Super Bowl championship has just added more fuel to the already caffeinated fervor of Seattle Seahawks fans.
The Seahawks fans and the design of CenturyLink Field have given Seattle the most hostile and deafening home-field advantage in pro sports. The "12s" will be on display Sunday when the Seahawks host Denver in a Super Bowl rematch. The fans aren't just loud, they are a driving economic force that stretches outside the stadium.
Want to launch a successful product? Put a '12' on it and put it on sale in the Seattle area.
Businesses through the upper left corner of the country are trying to capitalize the pride of the Seahawks fans. Whether it's getting Russell Wilson to be the pitchman for the local airline, to alcoholic beverages with 12 in the name, companies are finding ways to capitalize on the Super Bowl champs.
"We had no idea what to expect when we first put it out," said Adam Merkl, owner of Hilliard's Beer that produces "The 12th Can" pale ale. "And I would say we have exceeded it."
Merkl added that after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, one of his brewers, "said he's waited his entire life for this moment, which is true for so many people here, so many fans. Not even just Seahawks fans but sports fans in general. That's a big part."
The Seahawks are the only team in the NFL to have a number retired specifically for their fans.
As Seattle's success on the field has grown, reaching the pinnacle this past season with the first Super Bowl title in franchise history, the fan base has morphed. No longer are they overlooked, underappreciated supporters starving for national attention. They earned that recognition when New York became dotted with blue and green during Super Bowl week and then impacted the first play of the Super Bowl when Peyton Manning and center Manny Ramirez miscommunicated on the snap leading to a safety.
No longer is it the "12th Man" singular. Galvanized by the title and the massive response that followed, it's now become "12s" the collective.
"Them fans don't get lazy. They're up and screaming the whole entire game regardless of what the score is," Denver's Chris Harris Jr. said. "I mean, you could see it in the Super Bowl. It seemed like an away game how loud they were. So, we know they're going to be jumping, they're going to be amped up for sure."
There's a reason Seattle jerseys hold five of the top 20 spots of the most popular sold. Even the No. 12 Fan jersey holds down the 10th spot on the list of league-wide sales, ahead of Marshawn Lynch, J.J. Watt and Cam Newton.
Need a 12-pack filled with craft beer and a 12 on the can? That can be found throughout the Northwest thanks to Merkl and his company.
Need a special edition 12 Starbucks card? Good luck. Those sold out within days of being put on sale.
Want blue and green running shoes that are 12th edition of the series? That's entirely possible too.
And, of course, there are the "12" flags that dot neighborhood and businesses throughout the region.
"This year to date it's 25 percent of our business," said Kourtney Bailey, owner of Flags A' Flying, the company that worked with the team to design the first 12th Man flags in 2002. "It's really significant. Normally, Seahawks, a percent or two percent. ... It's pretty amazing. It's a really big chunk of our business.
The proprietors of these products are all fans, for the most part, first and foremost. Hillard's producing their "12th Can" was simply in response to a local radio station looking for a beer to represent the fans. It's smart business for these companies, knowing their brethren fans are going to gobble up any product awash in dark blue and neon green, or emblazoned with a "12."
Some of those fans are understandably new to the bandwagon. In the last four years, since coach Pete Carroll's arrival and with the success that's followed, being a Seahawks fan is now cool. Seattle sold out its season-ticket allotment of 63,000 along with the 12,000 spots on its season-ticket waitlist. Local TV ratings last season were up 77 percent from two years earlier
But the diehards remain: Mama Blue, and Mr. and Mrs. Seahawk, Kiltman and the Seahulk. They'll be there again on Sunday, just as they were through the lean years in the Kingdome to now the being the envy of the NFL.
"Our crowd is always raucous and loud," All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said. "They always have some kind of way affecting the game so I'm sure they'll be involved again."
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