Merchandise donated to charity

The San Francisco 49ers may have lost the Super Bowl, but items proclaiming them champions will be put to good use.

Niners Super Bowl championship merchandise, mostly T-shirts and sweatshirts, that were made in advance and bought by retailers are in the process of being donated to Worldvision, a Christian humanitarian organization that has worked to aid impoverished nations.

Once the merchandise is received, Worldvision officials will sort the gear by size, gender and season and then determine which items will go to which countries.

Five countries that will definitely receive 49ers items are Zambia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Armenia and Romania, according to Jeff Fields, corporate relations director for Worldvision.

"The people really light up when they see that they have a chance to wear a new T-shirt," Fields said.

Fields said that it's not likely that anyone who gets the items will have any idea what is wrong with them.

"We're going to some really remote parts of the world," Fields said. "They don't have the Internet. They don't know about the 49ers or about American football."

Worldvision started working with the NFL in the mid-1990s, as the idea of printing gear ahead of time became customary in the licensing world. Over time, retailers have taken more of a risk, ordering more before the outcome is determined. The NFL does not allow those retailers to sell the gear proclaiming the wrong champion.

It is unknown exactly how much 49ers gear will be shipped overseas, but the charitable organization typically receives tens of thousands of items worth more than $1 million in retail value. The NFL, Kohl's, Dick's Sporting Goods, Sports Authority and others have committed to making the donation this year.

How much advance gear is printed depends on the size of the fan base and how historic a win would be.

Fields said the record amount of gear Worldvision received was after Super Bowl XLII in 2008, when retailers ordered more than 100,000 pieces of gear that proclaimed a "19-0 Perfect Season" for the New England Patriots. New England, a 12-point favorite, of course lost to the New York Giants.

Fields said Worldvision likely will distribute the gear within the next four months.